With December National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Month, the officers — from a dozen agencies in Franklin County, Pa., Berkeley County, W.Va., and Washington County — gathered at the southbound Interstate 81 rest area in northern Berkeley County to launch a "Border-to-Border-Border-to-Border Impaired Driving Enforcement Campaign."
Police in Frederick County, Va., are participating in the four-state effort, but were not present for Wednesday's ceremony, said Lt. Tom Woodward, commander of the Maryland State Police barrack in Hagerstown and organizer of the effort.
Police will step up saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints during the holiday season "to deter the public from driving impaired and apprehend those who do," Woodward said.
More people die in accidents involving drunken drivers in a single year than all the lives lost in 10 years of fighting wars overseas, Woodward said. In the last three years alone, during December there have been 130 alcohol-related fatal crashes in the four-state region, he said.
"We need to bring a halt to this 100 percent preventable crime," Woodward said.
He said the intent of publicly announcing the monthlong enforcement effort is to try to prevent people from making mistakes, deter them from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after they have had too much to drink or after they have taken medications that can impair them.
The mission is to protect the public, prevent impaired driving crashes and arrest those who don't heed the warning, Woodward said.
Berkeley County Sheriff Ken Lemaster and Lt. G. F. Macher of the Martinsburg Police Department echoed Woodward's sentiments.
"It's overwhelming when we hear the numbers," Lemaster said. "We need to get the DUIs off the highway."
Macher said he is proud of the effort his department is making through weekend sobriety checks and saturation patrols.
Chief John Phillippy of the Greencastle (Pa.) Police Department said his community only has one square mile of roads, but his officers still make an average of eight drunken-driving arrests a month.
Adam Burns, 26, a five-year veteran of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, said he personally participates in about 40 DUI arrests a year.
Caroline Cash, executive director of the Maryland chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and a former Frederick County middle school teacher, said she has been with MADD since 2006. A year later, in March of 2007, a one-vehicle accident involving two of her former students, then both 17, resulted in the death of one of them. Drunken driving was blamed for the crash.
"It's the holiday season, a time to celebrate, a time to have fun and hopefully a time to relax," Woodward said. "We are urging people to drive carefully, drink responsibly and to remember that ‘buzzed driving is drunk driving.' A person doesn't have to be falling down drunk to be impaired."