Law enforcement agencies are ramping up patrols for Fourth of July holiday weekend

Posted at 5:43 PM, Jun 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-30 07:23:29-04

Mary Mitchell, her husband and two sons should not be alive.

Last April a drunk driver slammed into their SUV, sending the vehicle spinning.

"Then we took the second impact which was right there where my 5-year-old was sitting,” Mary said. “And then we started to spin, we flipped three times."

The SUV was on its roof when it finally stopped rolling. The ordeal was the scariest experience of Mary’s life.

"You're helpless, completely helpless because someone else took that away from you, they took everything away from you,” she said. “And you're upside down and you're trapped and there's nothing you can do, you couldn't even get to your children if you wanted to."

Luckily, all four of them walked away with mostly minor bumps and bruises. Physical wounds that have healed, but it's the emotional scars from someone else's decision they're still working through.

The drunk driver's blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit, and she had an open bottle of bourbon in her car.

"We're very fortunate, we're lucky to be alive, we're lucky that everyone was able to get out okay," said Mary.

A happy ending, not everyone gets after someone drinks and gets behind the wheel.

"Last year more than 520 people were killed on Maryland’s roads, and Maryland drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs caused roughly one-third of those traffic deaths," Maryland State Police said at a press conference Thursday.

Sadly, those numbers spike around the holidays. So over this Fourth of July weekend, agencies across the state will be out in force patrolling, conducting DUI checkpoints, and targeting areas where impaired crashes are common.

"We have a dedicated team of experts who are highly trained in detecting drugged and drunk drivers," said MD State Police Chief of Field Operations Bureau, Lt. Colonel Frank Lioi.

That team is known as SPIDRE, or State Police Impaired Driving Effort.  Over the last four years the group has made nearly 2,300 DUI arrests.

"When an officer makes an arrest, they'll bring the driver through the back door right here,” MD State Police Commander of CTAU, Sgt. Tim Aronhalt said.

The mobile breath alcohol testing truck is one of SPIDRE's tools to make the roadways safer.

"We'll have the driver just take a seat right here and we'll have them blow into this breath tube,” said Aronhalt.  “And the instrument will analyze their breath samples and we'll get a reading within seven or eight minutes of what their alcohol level is."

Officials say make a plan for how you're going to get home before you take that first sip. Every crash caused by a drunk or drugged driver is preventable.

"You have options,” said Mary.  “So don't drink and drive."

Since last October, anyone convicted of DUI is required to have an ignition interlock installed in their car. The device stops the vehicle from starting if there is alcohol on the driver's breath.

Maryland's Ignition Interlock Program is one of the strongest in the nation.