By CHRISTOPHER CAREY
ANNAPOLIS (Nov. 1, 2008)—In an effort to save 100 lives over the next few years, Maryland business representatives and state government officials announced the formation Thursday of the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation.
Speakers at the press conference stood at a podium flanked on one side by a silent video showing images of car wrecks, and on the other side by 615 pairs of empty shoes.
"They represent 615 senseless deaths that have occurred on Maryland highways in the last year," said David Nevins, co-chairman of the foundation and president of Nevins and Associates, a public relations firm.
The foundation was created as the Maryland State Highway Administration celebrates its centennial this year.
To reach the goal of saving 100 lives, the foundation said it is seeking 100 businesses in Maryland to sign a safe driving pledge. Signing the pledge would require businesses to reward or punish employees based on their driving habits.
"Our goal is to educate motorists, prevent collisions and save lives," said founding chairman Fred Mirmiran, president of a civil engineering firm called Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson.
Gov. Martin O'Malley praised the foundation and its strong private sector support.
"Things like this can't happen just by government," said O'Malley, who spoke at the press conference. "Traffic safety is public safety."
Mirmiran said the foundation also hoped to reduce the number of traffic fatalities by educating drivers about the dangers of drunk driving and text messaging while driving.
"Most of us don't deal with dangerous weapons on a daily basis, until we get behind the wheel," said Nevins.
Nevins said Maryland must begin to focus on reducing the number of accidents on the highways, arguing that more distractions exist in vehicles than ever before.
"While we in this country have concentrated on crash survival ... other countries have concentrated on crash avoidance," Nevins said.
The speakers also said the foundation hopes to work with the news media to achieve its goals, saying that a strong media focus on highway safety is paramount.
"We can't do it without the media," said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, a survivor of a near-fatal car accident in the 1970s.
Despite the somber mood, all remained optimistic about the years ahead.
"Maybe in the future, we can put together a press conference with shoes that are filled with the lives that have been saved," O'Malley said.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.