With the winter holiday season now in full swing, the Charles County State’s Attorney’s office has launched a new initiative to combat drunk driving and, ultimately, help save lives.

State’s Attorney Anthony “Tony” Covington announced the start of the Drive Sober initiative at the Greater Waldorf Jaycee’s Community Center on Nov. 18.

“There is not a soul on this planet that’s going to claim I had a beer, had a cognac, or a glass of wine and it just drove me to drive,” Covington (D) said in his remarks about the importance of the initiative.

The campaign, which continues until the end of the year, seeks to give educational opportunities and options for individuals to avoid getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol.

The state’s attorney’s office will be at events passing out Uber gift cards to steer residents toward using the ride share service instead of getting behind the wheel themselves after drinking.

The office also hopes to encourage the use of designated drivers by passing out soft drink vouchers that are eligible for use at participating local restaurants. An up-to-date list on participating establishments can be found at www.ccsao.us/drivesober/vouchers/.

Residents will also be able to get their hands on keychain breathalyzers to monitor their own blood alcohol content level.

While these units are not as precise as those used by police officers, Covington said the point of the breathalyzer was to educate the public about the effects an increased blood alcohol level has on the body’s functions.

“If you have X amount of alcohol in your system, I don’t care how you subjectively feel, OK?” Covington said.

“Science tells us that at a certain level, you are going to be impaired regardless of how you feel,” Covington added.

Restaurants will also be encouraged to install breathalyzers of their own to help customers know their level of impairment.

In addition to public outreach efforts, the Charles state’s attorney’s office purchased space on a billboard to promote sober driving by using the image of Ethan Evans Ruefly. Ruefly was only three months old when he was killed by Michael Maurice Ford, who crashed a work truck into the back of a Jeep carrying the boy and his parents, Tori and Jonathan Ruefly of La Plata.

Ford’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit at the time of the incident. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the crime in January 2020.

Tori Ruefly struggled to hold back tears as she spoke about the incident.

“Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine that my baby would be ripped from my arms not long after he was first placed there,” she said.

The event coincided with the 35th launch of Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s “Tie One On For Safety” campaign, which seeks to celebrate designated drivers by asking people to tie a red ribbon to their vehicle.

The event also saw Cpl. Justin Zimmerman of the Maryland State Police honored for his work with the agency’s crash team, which investigates serious traffic incidents including those that end in fatalities.

Zimmerman received a Golden Eagle award from the Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office as well as a recognition award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving for their 2021 law enforcement recognition program.

Zimmerman, who’s been apart of the crash team since 2005, said it “felt good” to receive the award, and stressed that residents stay away from driving if they’re impaired.

“Don’t drink and drive, don’t use drugs and drive. If you do go out and party, call an Uber, a cab, something. ... It’s not worth taking the life of someone else,” Zimmerman said.

Twitter: @DarrylSoMdNews

Twitter: @DarrylSoMdNews