The Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration’s (MDOT MVA) Highway Safety Office is asking passengers to speak up if they see family or friends engaging in dangerous driving behaviors behind the wheel. Preliminary data shows more than 60 motor vehicle passengers were killed in crashes in Maryland last year. During National Passenger Safety Week, January 22 through January 28, Marylanders are encouraged to sign the Courage to Intervene promise, created by We Save Lives and National Road Safety Foundation.

The Courage to Intervene initiative promotes standing up and speaking up to family members and friends to stop dangerous driving behaviors such as drunk, drugged and distracted driving and improper seat belt use. The goal is to promote safe driving practices with the underlying belief that every single one of us can make a difference by being vocal.

Every year in Maryland, more than 58,000 passengers are involved in a motor vehicle crash, and those crashes result in more than 12,000 injuries. Among passengers killed, 39% were not wearing a seat belt. Additionally, of the 6,600 impaired driving crashes that occur in Maryland each year, an average of 748 passengers are injured and 32 are killed, 41% of whom were not belted.

“Passengers can play a proactive role in ensuring drivers are following the rules of the road. Speaking up to our family and friends can be intimidating, but reminding our loved ones that driving safely is their responsibility can save lives,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Wes Moore’s Highway Safety Representative. “We know impaired, aggressive and distracted driving, and failure to wear a seat belt, are main contributing factors of fatalities on Maryland roads, and those could have been prevented if someone intervened.”

If a passenger sees any the following situations, it’s imperative to “Be the Back Seat Driver.” Speak up and ask the driver to adjust their behavior. If you feel unsafe, do not hesitate to call 911 for assistance.

  • Excessive Speeding: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding was a contributing factor in 29% of all traffic fatalities in 2020. The detrimental effects of speeding can include greater potential for loss of vehicle control; reduced effectiveness of occupant protection equipment; the need for increased stopping distance after the driver perceives a danger; and the increased degree of crash severity, leading to more severe injuries.
  • Impaired Driving: Impairment from drugs and/or alcohol can slow a driver’s reaction time, impair judgment of time and distance and decrease coordination. Drivers should avoid all alcohol and drug use prior to getting behind the wheel. Ridesharing or public transportation are safer alternatives. Passengers should not get into a vehicle if the driver has consumed alcohol or drugs.
  • Failure to Wear a Seat Belt: It takes three seconds to buckle up. Remember seat belts are your first line of defense in the event of the crash. Even with technological advances and airbags, failure to wear a seat belt is a contributing factor in about one in three motor vehicle fatalities on Maryland roadways. Buckle up in every seat, for every ride.
  • Improper Passing: While it may seem like it will get you to your destination faster, excessive weaving between vehicles and lanes is dangerous for all motorists. Drivers are reminded to pass on the left, use signals and drive at a reasonable speed, based weather conditions. 
  • Distracted Driving: Taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds can lead to a crash. Focusing on driving safely – which means paying attention to the road ahead – can make the difference between life and death. If you’re a passenger, speak up and offer to make the phone call or text or tend to passengers in the vehicle so the driver can focus solely on the road.

Learn more about the MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office by visiting ZeroDeathsMD.gov or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @ZeroDeathsMD.


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