The third week of April will be a busy one for highway safety partners in Calvert County. The Calvert Alliance Against Substance Abuse, Inc. (CAASA) and the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office are partnering with the Chesapeake Region Safety Council to prevent drug and alcohol crashes for teens and young adults.
Mock crashes will take place on Wednesday April 19th at Calvert High School and on Friday, April 21st at Huntingtown High School. Law Enforcement and Fire Department personnel will narrate through the event, talking with the students about the cause of each crash and the scene activities taking place. The Mock Crashes will focus on a driver impaired by drugs and alcohol, with unrestrained victims suffering debilitating injuries. Law Enforcement, Fire and EMS personnel will respond to the mock crash, conduct extrication and treatment of the victims, and assess the at-fault driver for drug and alcohol use. The deceased victim will be removed by a local funeral home. Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans stated “This program helps us to strive for success with one of our major goals, which is zero deaths on our highways. Early education concerning the dangers of driving, particularly distracted and drunk or drugged driving is one of the keys.”
“There are many partners that help pull the crash scenes together that should be recognized for their commitment to traffic safety”, mentioned Debbie Jennings of the Chesapeake Region Safety Council. “A Plus Towing and Recovery has donated many vehicles and provides the towing services for the mock crashes. The Calvert Control Center makes the 911 call that is played before the scene begins. Volunteers from Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department, Huntingtown Volunteer Fire Department & Rescue Squad, Prince Frederick Rescue Squad, Calvert Advanced Life Support take off from work to make sure that the mock crash events are staffed, and are among the first responders at the scene. The Calvert County Sheriff’s Office and Maryland State Police are front and center during the crash scene, making sure the teens know what the outcome is of the choice to drive impaired, distracted or aggressively on Calvert roadways. Rausch Funeral Home supported us with our first mock crash in 2002 at Calvert High School, and has been with us ever since. These events would not happen without them. There are students at the high schools that are already invested in sharing safe driving messages, and we are especially fortunate this year. Maryland’s D.A.R.E. America Youth Advocacy Board Representative, Alyssa Gibson, is at Huntingtown High School, and she has worked with us to develop the scenario and coordinate the Fire and EMS efforts.”
Risky driving behaviors will be discussed in the auditorium at both schools following their mock crash, as well as at The Calverton School on Thursday. The highway safety partners will bring Michael Bomgardner to Calvert High School on Wednesday, April 19th, for a discussion on Maryland’s Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) program. DRE’s are law enforcement officers trained to identify people whose driving is impaired by drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol. Mr. Bomgardner is a retired Calvert County Sheriff’s Sergeant that led the agency’s DARE program and directed enforcement efforts in their Traffic Unit for several years; he is presently teaching at the Southern Maryland Criminal Justice Academy. “Alcohol and other drug abuse is real in Calvert County”, added Candice D’Agostino, Coordinator, Calvert Alliance Against Substance Abuse, Inc. (CAASA). “The mock crash scenarios are just one education tool used to teach our teen population about the dangers of alcohol and other drug use and the importance of making good decisions.” The schools often select additional speakers to follow the highway safety partners’ efforts. This year, Calvert High School’s Criminal Justice class will be following the highway safety program with speakers from Farming4Hunger, they will discuss the heroin epidemic and the challenge of recovery from opioid addiction.
Chesapeake Region Safety Council’s President Dave Madaras noted that the non-profit organization’s mission, “To Educate and Influence People to Prevent Accidental Injury and Death”, aligns perfectly with the expansion of their traffic safety efforts at the local level throughout Maryland. “We’ve hired Debbie Jennings, previously of the Calvert County Traffic Safety Council and the Maryland Highway Safety Office”, stated Madaras. “Debbie has a diverse background, and is experienced in developing and directing programs, such as the mock crashes to assist young drivers. She will be continuing those efforts and we are supporting her advocacy with the quality educational programs available from National Safety Council as a resource to address the increase in Maryland’s crashes.”
Suzanne Elzey, founder of the CruiseSafe Program will be presenting at the Calverton School on Thursday, April 20th and Huntingtown High School on Friday, April 21st. Suzanne is the mother of Tyler, a Kent Island teenager that was killed, along with his three closest friends in a speed-related quadruple fatal crash several years ago. Suzanne also presented last year at Calvert and Patuxent High Schools, with dozens of students lining up to speak with her afterward. Suzanne typically requests that teens “Drive 5 for Ty”, in which they follow all laws and practice safe driving behaviors in honor of her son, who was only five miles from home when he died.
The week ends with CAASA and the Chesapeake Region Safety Council sponsoring the designated driver rewards booth outside of the Solomons Island Tiki Bar during the annual opening event. Drivers that pledge to remain sober and promise to get their friends home safely can sign up for instant prizes. At the end of the weekend, all designated drivers are eligible for four separate prizes, which includes free hotel or bed and breakfast stays and meals on Solomons Island along with Orioles baseball game tickets and gift cards to local stores. Bob Hall, Inc. donates the instant rewards for the Designated Driver Rewards program, and has worked with the Tiki Bar and other Solomons Island businesses for the prize donations.