One month after a Prince George’s County councilwoman announced an initiative with a focus on young people and improving driving habits, the state’s attorney’s office will kick off a similar campaign Saturday.
State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy, who announced her “Drive Focused, Sober & Safe” campaign in February, will lead the effort with an announcement at the Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex in Fort Washington alongside state and county officials, state and county police and community leaders.
The campaign hopes to decrease fatal crashes in the county, about a third of which involve drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs.
“Far too many times, we are seeing families come in devastated over the loss of their loved ones,” Braveboy said. “We can do our part to hold at-fault drivers accountable and bring some semblance of justice to the families, but the real justice for them would be to have their loved one here.”
She said last month’s jury conviction of an Upper Marlboro woman showed the county’s seriousness about unsafe driving.
A jury found Vernelle Robinson, 57, guilty of vehicular manslaughter and other related charges after her vehicle crashed into Top of the Hill restaurant in Upper Marlboro in 2017. Isiah Pugh, 73, was critically wounded and died a week later, while several other patrons were also injured.
Robinson didn’t have alcohol or drugs in her system, but “she wanted to get somewhere faster than she needed to,” Braveboy said.
According to court records, Robinson is scheduled to be sentenced May 3.
Although last month’s guilty verdict helped bring some closure, Pugh’s family miss the patriarch who resided in Oxon Hill, served as a Boy Scout leader and loved all 15 grandchildren. Pugh was conducting Boy Scout business at the restaurant when the car crashed through it on Oct. 24, 2017.
“My dad was so full of life and spirit. He was such a rock of the family, especially during holidays,” said Pugh’s daughter, Tiffany Pugh of Glenarden. “I’m still involved in Boy Scout events. My dad is still in a lot of people’s thoughts.”
Pugh admitted she used to drive with a “lead foot,” but not anymore.
“I am more courteous of others,” she said. “I am more concerned about drivers around me. I don’t want anybody in my shoes.
“Anything that can help educate drivers to slow down such as what [Braveboy] is doing, I support it,” Pugh said.
Meanwhile, County Councilwoman Monique Anderson-Walker (D-District 8) of Fort Washington continues to lead the “#DrivingItHome” campaign launched March 22 with a goal to change unsafe driving habits, focusing on seat belt use, texting and driving, distracted driving, drunk driving, speeding and aggressive driving.
The initiative was spurred by crashes, thousands of citations and traffic stops along Route 210, known one of the region’s most dangerous roads. Police made 70 traffic-related arrests last year along the state highway, which stretches nearly 21 miles from the District border through Oxon Hill into neighboring Charles County.
So far this year, police have issued more than 3,700 citations and 18 DUI arrests along Route 210.
Last month’s announcement came exactly one year after Samira Jenkins, 24, was struck and killed by a vehicle near Route 210 and Kerby Hill Road in Oxon Hill while waiting to catch a bus for a job interview.
To ensure young people are involved, a friendly competition will involve the four high schools in the 26th legislative district — Oxon Hill, Potomac, Friendly and Crossland. The student with the most “likes” from the campaign on social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram will receive Beats headphones.
With medical marijuana already approved in Maryland and more talks to possibly make recreational usage legal, Braveboy said discussions are scheduled for this summer with law enforcement and health care officials on enforcement and safety. Maryland’s neighbor, the District of Columbia, is one of a handful of jurisdictions in the nation that has legalized recreational marijuana.
“We anticipate more drivers who will be under the influence of marijuana,” Braveboy said. “Unlike alcohol with the blood-alcohol content, we don’t have that with marijuana. That is an area we are going to work out with our health care community and state police and other law enforcement to really think through and how to address of people who are under the influence.”