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The grim numbers alone would keep most people from driving while they’re drunk or impaired by other drugs.

A couple years ago, Maryland’s State Highway Administration calculated that every 58 hours, someone in Maryland was being killed by a drunk driver. The state agency reported that drunk drivers don’t plan on hurting themselves or anyone else when they decide to have a few drinks with friends and then drive, but that tragedy ensued more often than anyone would think.

St. Mary’s Sheriff Tim Cameron (R) said that law officers will continue their lookout for drunk or drugged drivers into next week, including New Year’s Eve, to try to prevent them from injuring themselves or someone else, or worse.

“All through the holidays, we will have additional personnel out looking for individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” the sheriff said, and the officers also will be combatting acts of aggressive driving and checking to make sure that motorists are wearing their seat belts.

In recent years, the highway administration reports, Maryland State Police and local law-enforcement agencies have taken part in a variety of initiatives to deter impaired driving.

Checkpoint Strikeforce focused on a sustained and highly visible enforcement and public information campaign, coordinated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and combined education, enforcement and accompanying outreach efforts in highly targeted jurisdictions throughout the state, according to the agency. Checkpoint Strikeforce was a research-based, zero-tolerance initiative designed to catch and arrest drunk drivers through the implementation of sobriety checkpoints, and to educate the public about the dangers and consequences of drunk driving. The target audience for the program was men between the age of 21 and 35, viewed as a population that was typically harder to reach with public awareness campaigns, and statistically at the highest risk for drunk driving.

A statewide Impaired Driving Coalition, consisting of a network of public and private stakeholders, served as a conduit, the state agency reports, for data analysis, campaign and project development, and the implementation of those projects, campaigns and grants. Maryland’s Impaired Driving Coalition maintained its diverse membership of state agencies, local agencies, law enforcement representation and private businesses, and it made use of task force recommendations including recognizing police agencies and individual officers from across the state who make significant contributions to combatting drunk driving. The Impaired Driving Coalition also pursued strategies to create stronger penalties and standards for impaired driving convictions, as well as what action was taken with motorists after their arrest.

On the legislative side, the agency reports that a Task Force to Combat Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol established in 2007 submitted a comprehensive report with findings and proposed solutions to Maryland’s DUI education, enforcement, engineering, and public outreach programs, as well as all of the components of the judicial and licensing proceedings, screening, intervention and treatment programs. The state highway administration reports that it continues its work to implement those recommendations.

More recently, a campaign known as DUI Is For Losers focused on education and media messages again targeting young men between the age of 21 and 34, the agency reports, and the program sought to highlight the social scorn of acquiring a DUI conviction. The messages sought to trigger emotions on issues such as personal losses — financial, familial and physical — that could result from driving drunk, such as the loss of peers’ respect, the loss of a job, the loss of the ability to walk and the possible loss of a life.

Cameron said that the risks of arrest, paying a fine, going to jail or having to take alcohol-offender classes all have a deterrent value, but the strongest deterrent might be closer to home.

“A greater deterrent is friends, family and loved ones who will prevent you from getting behind the wheel,” the sheriff said, including finding a designated driver or calling a cab. “People are doing better with that,” he said.

Tavern proprietors also play a role, the sheriff said, by giving impaired customers a Tipsy Taxi card for a free cab ride home if they have no other way to safely get there. “There’s an onus on them,” Cameron said, of the taverns’ responsibility.

And the general public does its part to keep the roads safe.

“People speak up and report drunk [and drug-impaired] drivers all the time,” Cameron said.

Last Friday, the sheriff’s office concluded its five Fridays of carrying out a “Maximum Deployment” initiative, including setting up remote command posts in shopping areas, but the sheriff said stepped-up patrols will continue to the start of the new year.

“We’ll be out in force,” he said.

Still, the hope is that drunk and drug-impaired driving and the bitter consequences that can follow won’t be an issue on St. Mary’s roads in the first place, as much as possible.

“I’m hoping, for this holiday,” Cameron said.

Health department offers tips to avoid stomach flu

St. Mary’s Health Department recently reported that the widespread cases of suspected norovirus across the country include some in St. Mary’s County.

Norovirus, also known as the “stomach flu,” is a highly contagious virus that causes symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain, the health department reports, and symptoms typically last 24 to 48 hours.

Each year, the health department reports, norovirus is suspected to affect 21 million people in the United States, and it can be spread by eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with the virus, touching surfaces or objects that have norovirus on them and then putting the fingers that have touched them into the mouth. The illness also can be spread by having close, personal contact with an infected person such as caring for or sharing food, drinks, or eating utensils with an infected person.

The health department recommends precautionary actions to avoid contracting this illness, such as practicing proper hand hygiene. Always wash hands carefully with soap and water after using the restroom and before eating, preparing or handling food. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers may be used in addition to hand washing, but they should not be used as a substitute for soap and water.

Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood thoroughly. Be aware that noroviruses are relatively resistant and can survive quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish, including temperatures as high as 140 degrees.

When sick, do not prepare food or care for others for at least two or three days after recovering. This advice also applies to sick workers in schools, day care facilities and other places where they may expose people to norovirus.

Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution. Wash contaminated laundry thoroughly. Wear disposable gloves while handling soiled laundry. Wash items with detergent at the maximum cycle and machine dry.

Anyone who becomes ill from norovirus should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid loss and prevent dehydration. See a primary health care provider if dehydration or other complications develop.

More information about norovirus can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at www.cdc.gov/norovirus/index.html.

Jail’s staff adopts family for Christmas

The staff at the St. County Detention Center once again adopted a family in the county this month to help brighten their Christmas, just as the correctional officers and civilian employees have done for the past 16 years.

The employees donated money to purchase gifts and food for a family in need, the sheriff’s office reports, after senior administrative coordinator Leann Quade and administrative coordinator Valerie Hayden worked with St. Mary’s County Department of Aging & Human Services to identify a family.

This holiday season, the detention center staff collected more than $600, according to sheriff’s office spokesperson Cindy Allen. They purchased bicycles and helmets, a Leap Frog Learning System, winter coats, gloves, pajamas, toys and gift cards for the adopted family’s children, who are 6 and 4.

Hayden told the spokesperson that as children have no control over their parents’ financial situation, the jail’s employees want to share their good fortune, and delight in watching children’s faces light up when they are handed their presents.

Cat adoptions coming to Callaway

St. Mary’s residents will have a new venue beginning early in the new year to bring a furry and loving friend into their homes.

As of Jan.12, the St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League will have a storefront in the Callaway Village shopping center, located off Route 5 near its Route 249 intersection, to house rescued kittens and cats that are available for adoption.

SMAWL’s storefront will be open weekends, and on weekdays by appointment. The public is welcome to stop by to meet potential pets and fill out applications.

To volunteer to help with the rescued cats, or to get more information, call 301-373-5659 and leave a message, or go online to www.smawl.org.

jwharton@somdnews.com