Md. opens safe-driving campaign

To highlight cause, state to use accident victims' names and images, officials announce

May 06, 2008|By Steven Stanek | Steven Stanek,Sun reporter

With Maryland on pace for more than 600 traffic fatalities this year, state officials kicked off a public awareness campaign to promote safer driving yesterday.

Standing on the steps of the state medical examiner's office on Penn Street, with pictures of victims posted in the background, officials introduced "Choose Safety for Life," a blitz of billboards, posters and radio and television announcements reminding drivers to buckle up, slow down and stay sober.

Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari likened statewide traffic deaths to a "silent epidemic" and said that 93 percent of traffic accidents are caused by human error and are preventable.

"We simply cannot tolerate this senseless loss of life," said Porcari, adding that crashes claim more victims each year than homicides.

Last year in Maryland there were 608 traffic fatalities, down 43 from 2006, according to figures provided by the Department of Transportation. In the first four months of 2008, there have been 164 traffic-related deaths, up one from the same period last year.

"It's tracking for an annual rate of over 600," Porcari said.

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who serves as the honorary chairman of the Maryland Impaired Driving Coalition, said the campaign will have a direct impact on the number of deaths.

"The number of lives ... that are being taken on the roads of Maryland because of needless, unacceptable driving behavior has got to stop," Brown said. "We can put as many law enforcement [officers] on the street as possible - and that's an important component of it - but also education and awareness and asking drivers to take responsibility for what they do. ... That's what today is all about."

The campaign also marks the start of a push for "100 days of safety," a statewide effort to promote safe driving through engineering projects and stepped-up policing. Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Terrence B. Sheridan said during that span he will use more "targeted" resources and will continue to issue more citations for aggressive driving.

The campaign will use the names and images of traffic accident victims to draw attention to the cause. Monique Glover, whose daughter, Brijae Deresha Harris, was run over and killed by a drunken driver as the two were walking her to school in 2001, said she was thankful that her daughter has become a part of the safe driving campaign.

"I honestly thought that she would just be another statistic, you know, a little girl killed in a city street," said Glover, whose daughter's image was displayed behind the officials. "I never ever thought her death would impact somebody else. It's an honor because I didn't want her death to be in vain."

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