ANNAPOLIS, MD (December 5, 2007) – A procession of Maryland families, each bearing photographs of loved ones killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes, began the State’s “Maryland Remembers” ceremony. The ceremony is an annual event held to remember victims of impaired driving. Each family member was given a voice today in Annapolis as they solemnly stated the name of a Maryland life cut short at the hands of a drunk driver. Jerry and Paula Celentano were among the group, and described the devastating impact of losing their daughter, Alisa Celentano, an 18-year old promising student who aspired to do social work.
During the emotional ceremony, Maryland’s Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown, the Honorary Chairman of the Impaired Driving Coalition, exalted the State’s victims of drunk driving while collectively calling for safety during what is the deadliest time of year for crashes involving drunk drivers.
“Marylanders are seeking an end to the needless tragedies caused by drunk drivers. Today’s ceremony honors the memory of those lost to drunk driving with a renewed commitment to prevent impaired drivers from destroying more lives,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “Together, we remember. Together, we can make a difference by exercising personal responsibility and making the right choice – to drive sober.”
The Celentano family echoed the Lt. Governor’s sentiments regarding the senseless loss incurred because of drunk driving and this opportunity to memorialize impaired driving victims. Speaking about the opportunity to honor his daughter, Jerry Celentano said, “When you lose them, you just want to spend that much more time letting everyone know not just what we're missing, but what you're missing.”
Noting the fact that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is historically the period when the largest number of U.S. alcohol-related traffic fatalities occurs, Lt. Governor Brown urged Maryland drivers this holiday season to think ahead and not drink and drive.
During 2006, 268 Marylanders died in alcohol-related traffic crashes on Maryland’s roadways, representing nearly 41 percent of the year’s traffic fatalities. Maryland’s experience mirrors what is clearly a national epidemic: more than 17,600 persons were killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes last year across the country. Despite significant education and enforcement efforts throughout the State, including sobriety checkpoints and increased DUI patrols, the level of local drunk driving deaths actually increased from 2005 when 239 alcohol-related traffic fatalities occurred.
In addition to both paying tribute to Maryland’s victims of drunk driving and serving as a call for safety during this holiday period when nearly four-out-of-10 U.S. traffic deaths are alcohol-related, today’s “Maryland Remembers” event served as the culmination of both the state’s sobriety checkpoint campaign, Checkpoint Strikeforce, and dedications of sobriety checkpoints to Maryland’s drunk driving victims.
Speakers at today’s ceremony in Annapolis also included Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari and Maryland State Police Lt. Colonel Matthew Lawrence.
A July 2005 public opinion survey of Maryland, conducted for Checkpoint Strikeforce by MWR Strategies, found that more than half of the Maryland drivers surveyed perceive drunk drivers as a dangerous threat, with 61 percent saying drunk drivers are among the most serious dangers they face on the road. Sobriety checkpoints and sobriety patrols are also strongly supported; nearly nine out of 10 Maryland drivers surveyed support the anti-DUI initiative.
Maryland continues to introduce new and innovative strategies to prevent drunk driving. This year Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law a bill creating a task force, which is conducting a top-to-bottom assessment of Maryland’s impaired driving prevention program.
In May, the State Highway Administration strengthened a program in Baltimore City called Tipsy?Taxi!, a service that provides free taxi rides (up to $50) that originate in Baltimore City. The service, provided in partnership with AAA Midatlantic and Yellow Cab, is intended to provide a safe alternative to drinking and driving during notorious “drinking holidays” such as this New Year’s Eve. The campaign will be active on December 31, 2007, beginning at 8 p.m. and continue through 6 a.m. the next morning, January 1, 2008. Tipsy?Taxi! urges celebrants in the City of Baltimore to take advantage of the service by calling 1-877-963-TAXI.