As Memorial Day weekend approaches, the Montgomery County Department of Police and the County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) are issuing a critical warning to motorists: Be safe, be aware and be responsible. Montgomery County Police and allied local and State police departments will be on the roads with enhanced patrols and sobriety checkpoints to get impaired drivers off the road.
Nationally, the holiday weekend, marked by celebrations and increased travel, often comes with a surge in traffic crashes caused by excessive speed, impairment and distracted driving. The National Safety Council estimates 469 people may die on U.S. roads this Memorial Day holiday.
“This Memorial Day weekend, let us honor the memory of our fallen heroes by ensuring their sacrifice is not overshadowed by preventable tragedies,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “Every day, about 37 people die nationally in drunk driving crashes—that is one person every 39 minutes. Vision Zero and MCDOT continue to build and improve roadway infrastructure, but driver behavior plays a very important role as well. It is especially important for all of us to be diligent in making responsible choices this holiday weekend to ensure safer roads for everyone.”
While the causes are under investigation, this past weekend saw a distressing surge in local fatal crashes in Montgomery County, with four confirmed fatalities. In comparison, there were 46 total County fatal crashes in 2022, with 50 fatal victims, accounting for about one fatality a week.
While Montgomery County’s total fatalities this year so far are comparable to last year’s, the monthly total for May is trending higher. The recent number of crashes is a devastating reminder that summer months are a cause for extra precaution.
So far this year, eight of the 16 (50 percent) County crash fatalities are suspected of being impaired. The typical rate is 30 percent.
“Our officers will be working diligently to enforce traffic laws, and conduct sobriety checkpoints, throughout this extended weekend,” said Montgomery Police Chief Marcus Jones. “However, preventing crashes is a collective responsibility. Everyone must make a conscious effort to prioritize safety and make responsible choices. Anyone who chooses to drink alcohol should arrange for a safe ride or plan to take public transportation. With so many safe ride options available, there is no excuse for driving after drinking. It is a selfish decision that puts everyone on our roads at risk. It is a shared responsibility. These traffic deaths are preventable.”
The County’s Vision Zero effort to prevent death and injury on Montgomery County roadways offers a listing of local safe rides on its website here.
“We continue to invest and build infrastructure to make our roadways safer,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “While this takes time, it is important that we address that there are things all of us can do right now to help make our roadways safer. With the summer months bringing more people outdoors, it is paramount that we curb dangerous behaviors that impact everyone’s safety.”
MCDOT strongly emphasizes the following guidelines to ensure the safety of road users:
- Adhere to posted speed limits. Speeding significantly increases the risk of crashes and serious injury and fatalities. Speed reduces the time available for drivers to react to unexpected situations.
- Avoid impaired driving. Never operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any drugs that impair judgment and or coordination. If you are planning to consume alcohol, plan ahead for a safe ride.
- Eliminate distractions. Maintain focus on the road by avoiding distractions such as mobile devices.
- Buckle up. Ensure that all vehicle occupants are properly restrained with seat belts or age-appropriate child safety seats. Seat belts save lives and significantly reduce injuries in the event of a crash.
- Plan ahead. Before traveling, map out your route and plan for potential traffic and delays. Allow ample time to arrive so you are not inclined to rush.
- Rest up and be alert. Fatigue impairs judgment and reaction time. Do your best to get sufficient rest before traveling. If drowsiness occurs, pull over to a safe area to rest or switch drivers if possible.