Howard police link drinking to fatal collision

Driver of one car had blood alcohol twice the legal limit

he, other driver were killed

March 14, 2007|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,sun reporter


An article in the Maryland section Wednesday about a fatal Howard County automobile accident failed to make it clear that under Maryland law a motorist with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher is considered to be driving while intoxicated (DWI), and a motorist with a blood alcohol concentration between 0.04 percent and 0.08 percent is considered to be driving under the influence (DUI).

A young man celebrating his 21st birthday had been drinking before his car collided with the car of a well-known pediatrician in Ellicott City last week, killing both men on impact, Howard County police said yesterday.

Police released the results of an autopsy that showed Christopher McCullough had a blood alcohol content of 0.18 percent when his Ford Taurus crossed the median of Route 103 just west of Chatsworth Way on March 5 and collided with a Volkswagen Passat driven by Dr. Allan Theodore Leffler II, 66.

The legal blood alcohol limit in Maryland is 0.08 percent.

McCullough was traveling east a few blocks from his home on Bounty Court - and about a half-mile from Leffler's home on Montgomery Road - when he rounded a curve on a slight incline and veered into the other car, police said.

McCullough, a 2004 graduate of Howard High School, was living with his parents, Charles J. and Katherine S. McCullough, in Ellicott City and attending Howard Community College. His father previously told The Sun that McCullough had been out to dinner with his family and then at a friend's home before the accident occurred about 10:30 p.m.

McCullough's father said yesterday that the family had no further comment.

Leffler was a pediatrician in Howard County for more than three decades. His Ellicott City Pediatric Associates expanded to a five-doctor office on Chevrolet Drive after starting as a solo practice in his Montgomery Road basement.

Leffler's stepson, Dan Carpenter of Upperco, said the family had wondered whether alcohol had played a role in the accident.

"Knowing this does add another layer to the sadness of the tragedy," he said.

Carpenter said his mother, Melissa Leffler, 58, who was a passenger in her husband's car, is at home and recovering well. She was taken from the accident to Maryland Shock Trauma Center and released Friday.

"I think she is still struggling to accept the enormity of the situation," Carpenter said.

Leffler was on his way to visit a newborn patient at Howard County General Hospital, an activity that colleagues said was in character for a doctor who often went the extra mile for the children in his care.

When family members received visitors at their church last week, "you saw how many people he had touched in his life," Carpenter said. "People we didn't even know were coming and wanted to say something to my mother about how he had gone out of his way" to help.

A funeral Mass for Leffler and a memorial service for McCullough were held Saturday.

The March 5 crash was the third fatal accident on Howard County roads this year, resulting in five deaths, said Sherry Llewellyn, a police spokeswoman. All three incidents involved alcohol.

Last year, Howard County police responded to 19 fatal motor vehicle accidents that resulted in 22 deaths, Llewellyn said. Eight of those were alcohol-related, killing 10 people.

County police announced this week that they would increase patrols to target drunken drivers during the National Collegiate Athletic Association college basketball tournament and for St. Patrick's Day.

Llewellyn said the department routinely increases enforcement during holidays and major sporting events, when parties and other activities that involve alcohol are common.

Sobriety checkpoints will be set up throughout the county, she said.

"Drunk-driving enforcement is always a priority for the department, but there are times throughout the year when we know there is an increased likelihood [that people] will drive under the influence," Llewellyn said.

At a sobriety checkpoint Dec. 22 and 23, county police arrested four drivers and charged them with driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, police said.

Sun reporter Tyrone Richardson contributed to this article.

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