On Monday, Maryland looked back at the lives of 120 residents lost to impaired driving over the past year, and Gov. Larry Hogan announced a grant that might reduce those losses in the future.
Speaking at the 18th annual Maryland Remembers Event, Hogan said the state has been working hard enacting new laws to bring down the number of fatalities due to driving under the influence.
“With your support, we enacted Noah’s Law, to require ignition interlock devices for anyone convicted of drunk driving in Maryland,” Hogan said. “After a multiyear effort, we successfully enacted the Repeat Drunk Driving Offenders Act, to impose stronger penalties on drunk and drugged driving offenders.”
The Repeat Drunk Driving Offenders Law got its first test earlier this year. In May 2020, Todd Beaker, 58, who had eight prior convictions for drunk driving, crashed head-on into 27-year-old Bennett Kriewald, who was disabled as a result of the crash.
Kriewald’s mother, Kimberly Sizemore, spoke at the ceremony, saying her son had taken that day off work to attend his grandmother’s funeral. It was 2:30 p.m. when he was struck by Beaker while pulling out of a store.
Before the crash, Sizemore said, Kriewald was an electrician, had just closed on a house on the water and was about to buy a boat. But the collision changed everything. Due to his injuries, he lost his job, couldn’t climb a ladder or fully bend his hand, and had difficulty walking.
“He can no longer continue in that career he spent years building on, to fully enjoy the lifestyle that he worked so hard for,” Kriewald said. “The ongoing financial implications, medical bills, loss of wages, inability to work, are devastating for Bennett and are ongoing still to this day.”
While nothing will repair the damage done to her son, Sizemore took some comfort in the new law that allowed harsher penalties toward the man who hit Bennett.
“Todd Beaker was sentenced to two consecutive 10-year sentences for his impaired driving convictions,” Sizemore said. “I can now breathe easier knowing he is officially off our roads.”
But she said there is something each of us can do to try and reduce the number of impaired driving tragedies.
“On the day of Bennett’s crash, someone saw Todd Beaker stumble into the liquor store and allowed him to return to his car and his driver’s seat,” she said. “Please, if you see someone driving impaired, step up and stop those involved.”
Hogan also announced that Maryland has gotten a grant from the Governors Highway and Safety Association that he hopes will cut down on impaired driving during the holiday season. The grant will offer $10 ride-share credits to Marylanders throughout the state. Maryland is one of just five states to receive the grant.
“Last year, over 1,300 people were arrested in Maryland from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs,” Hogan said. “We hope that this creative new initiative will encourage more Marylanders to make better choices.”