Six persons died in Labor Day weekend traffic accidents in Maryland, Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia, area police reported yesterday. Meanwhile area police said that using a number of roadblocks and individual traffic stops they arrested more than 225 motorists on drunk driving charges.
State and local police in Montgomery and Prince George's counties arrested more than 120 motorists in their area alone, reporting only three fatal accidents compared to 11 during the Labor Day weekend last year. Police in the District reported one fatality, compared to none over the holiday weekend a year ago, and Northern Virginia reported two. Comparative figures for last year in Northern Virginia were not immediately available.
"It was a tremendous reduction in fatalities," said Maryland State Police Lt. Knut Ellenes of the Maryland numbers. "We don't take credit. It's the public. Apparently they were driving more aware, and maybe adhering more to road safety practice, and maybe not drinking so much."
While 104 persons were arrested in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, police estimate that 60 motorists were arrested on drunk driving charges in the District and more than 70 in Northern Virginia in just the city of Alexandria and in Fairfax and Arlington counties, as well as several areas covered by state police west of Fairfax. Arrest totals in Fairfax County were not immediately available.
Of the three fatal accidents in Maryland, only one occurred in the Washington area. Maryland State Police said alcohol was involved in the accident on I-95, south of Indian Head Highway late Monday when George Benjamin Green, of Arlington, stepped out of his car after a minor rear-end collision with another car and was struck by a third vehicle.
Alcohol also was a factor in at least one of the two deaths reported in Northern Virginia. State police in Arlington said 25-year-old Ali Ahmad Alsefiani was pronounced dead late Sunday night after the car in which he was a passenger left the roadway of eastbound I-66.
Trooper Bob Moses, who said the occupants "had apparently been drinking," said the car was traveling at a high speed about a half-mile west of Fairfax Drive when it veered from the left lane across the right lane and onto the shoulder, leaving 256 feet of skid marks. The car traveled another 139 feet on the shoulder before hitting a sound barrier, then began rolling over and finally stopped, upside down, when it struck a light pole, Moses said.
Moses said no charges had been filed yet, but that the blood alcohol levels of the driver and other passenger were known.
In the second fatal Virginia accident, still under investigation, state police said 30-year-old David George Fust of Charlottesville was killed Monday night about 10:30 when his car, which was westbound on Rte. 50 between routes 728 and 723 in Frederick County, struck the highway median. The car overturned several times, throwing Fust out.
In the District of Columbia, police said the city's one fatality occurred when William A. Strine, 54, of Palmer Park lost control of his car on East Capitol Street and struck a tree at 7:15 a.m. yesterday. Police spokesman Jim Battle said police will not know whether the accident was alcohol-related until autopsy results are received.
Battle said the accident was the 44th traffic death in the city this year. By this time last year, 49 people had died in traffic accidents in the District.
In Montgomery County, state and county police arrested 64 people on drunk driving charges during the weekend, most of them on Friday night. County police set up roadblocks on Rte. 355 south of Shady Grove Road, on Georgia Avenue north of Spring Street in Silver Spring and on University Boulevard in Wheaton, and kept a special watch out for drunk drivers in other areas.
In Prince George's County, another 64 people were arrested on drunk driving charges. Lt. Carl Salesky of the county police special operations division, said police checked 2,318 vehicles Friday night at a roadblock near the Branch Avenue intersection on Allentown Road in Camp Springs and arrested 15 people on drunk driving charges.
Maryland State Police arrested five people at a roadblock Saturday night on Rte. 50 outside Ocean City, five more at two roadblocks in Harford County north of Baltimore and one person at a road block in Allegany County.
In Arlington County, Labor Day holiday arrests rose from 36 last year to 38, according to Peter J. Larkin, head of the police department's Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP).
Fairfax City police reported eight arrests and Alexandria five.
Virginia State Police in Culpeper, who have nicknamed their heavy-patrol holiday strategy "Operation Care," made 13 arrests in the area between Fredericksburg and Winchester. State troopers based in the Washington suburbs recorded an equal number, seven inside the Capital Beltway and six more outside.