Passenger cars and trucks are safer than ever before, with refined front and side airbags, cutting edge driver assistance features and crumple zones to lessen the impact of a collision. It’s a good thing, too, since many people have grown more aggressive and reckless behind the wheel.
Of particular concern is the fact that some of those who are speeding, tailgating and weaving in and out of traffic are intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, of both the legal and illegal varieties. Evidence to that effect may be found in our daily Police and Fire Log. Law enforcement officers have their hands full patrolling roads in the region, especially with the segment of Interstate 68 running through Allegany and Garrett counties.
Last month, we were informed that the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Administration was selected by the National Governors Association to take part in a “learning collaborative” to strengthen the use of data to fight impaired driving-related injuries and fatalities.
A grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will pay for the information-gathering project.
Advisers from several state agencies will learn from national experts and study other states’ efforts to boost educational programs, technology, legislation, laboratory testing and training to improve traffic safety.
From 2014 to 2018, Maryland averaged 6,779 crashes, 3,190 injuries and 159 fatalities related to impaired driving each year, according to information sent to the newspaper. Those deaths accounted for 31 percent of the state’s total roadway fatalities. Widespread heroin and opioid use has increased the burden on Maryland’s Drug Recognition Expert Program and police testing lab.
Officials believe data collection and standardization, including toxicology testing, is needed to fully analyze impaired driving at the state level. In 2016, the National Safety Council examined police reports from 50 states and found none fully captured the necessary data to understand the extent of drug and alcohol impaired driving.
Driving well takes every bit of concentration a person can muster, especially with other motorists emulating their favorite NASCAR racers. Many Americans legally carry concealed firearms, but our highways are clogged every day with millions of vehicles in plain sight that can change from comfortable means of travel into two-ton killing machines in the blink of an eye.
We look forward to hearing about positive developments as the result of the new collaborative effort. One life saved would be worth the time and money spent.