Washington-area drivers who overindulge in booze this holiday season have two choices: Take advantage of free rides home through the Washington Regional Alcohol Program’s (WRAP) or risk accidents, injuries and harsh legal consequences for driving drunk.
WRAP on Dec. 16 honored 15 area police officers and a sheriff’s deputy at the 2022 Law Enforcement Awards of Excellence for Impaired Driving Prevention.
U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-11th) told law-enforcement officers at the gathering that the community was grateful for their life-saving work.
“It’s not always easy being in law enforcement these days,” Connolly said.
“But what you’re doing, especially this time of year, is heroic . . . There is nothing more tragic than a family that loses somebody unnecessarily at this time of year because somebody made a bad decision.”
The City of Fairfax Police Department co-hosted the event and its chief, Erin Schaible, helped bestow the awards along with former Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Pamela Simms. Simms’ husband, Metropolitan Police Officer Anthony Simms, was on special assignment looking for drunk drivers in 1996 when he was killed by one.
Simms honored her late husband’s courage and heroism and said the honorees also embodied those traits.
This year’s honorees were:
• Officers Kyrien Clark and Ashley Kumar of the Arlington County Police Department.
• Pfc. Bradley Minger of the Fairfax County Police Department.
• Officer Michael Raines of the City of Alexandria Police Department.
• Officer Mathew Aguiniga of the City of Falls Church Police Department.
• Pfc. Zachary Davis of the City of Fairfax Police Department.
• Pfc. Bryce Cooper of the Herndon Police Department.
• Deputy 1st Class Daren Smith of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.
• Maryland State Police Trooper 1st Class Nicholas Kline.
• Officer Henry Gallagher of the Metropolitan Police Department.
• Cpl. Joseph Ben of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police.
• Sgt. Cody Fields of the Montgomery County Police Department.
• Officer William Ward of the Prince William County Police Department.
• Officer Ryan Corrigan of the U.S. Capitol Police.
• Officer Kevin Meagher of the U.S. Park Police.
• Virginia State Police Trooper Carlos Alejo.
WRC-TV traffic reporter Melissa Mollet served at master of ceremonies at the 25th-anniversary ceremony, held at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Tysons Galleria.
Alix Lowe-Server, federal-policy adviser for ride-sharing service Lyft, announced the kickoff of WRAP’s 2022 Holiday SoberRide Campaign.
From Dec. 16 through Jan. 1, between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., residents who’ve been imbibing can download Lyft to their smartphones, enter the SoberRide code in the app’s “Promo” area and receive a free (up to $15) ride home. WRAP will post the weekly promo codes on SoberRide.com at 9 p.m. on Dec. 16, 23 and 31.
Service will be available in all or parts of these jurisdictions in Lyft’s Washington-area coverage zone: the District of Columbia, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland and the Virginia counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William.
Nearly 40 percent of all U.S. traffic deaths during holiday season have involved drunk drivers, Lowe-Server said. During those months between 2016 and 2020, about 4,400 people died in drunk-driving-related traffic accidents in the United States, she said.
SoberRide since 1991 has provided 83,678 free rides to impaired revelers who otherwise might have driven, she said. In December 2019, the last December before the pandemic, more than 1,100 people in the Washington metropolitan area used the program, she added.
The SoberRide program gives people the opportunity to make rational choices, Connolly said.
Someone dies in an alcohol-related traffic crash every 45 minutes in the United States and more than 800 people died in such accidents in December 2019 alone, Schaible said. In 2021, Greater Washington authorities arrested 10,248 motorists for driving under the influence, she said.
“Without question, the local fight against drunk driving is far from won,” Schaible said.
Richard Leotta, father of Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta, who was killed in the line of duty in 2015 by a drunk driver, told the honorees in a video message that their work was difficult but vital.
“You are making a difference every day you go out there,” Leotta said.
“Your work is hard, your work is dangerous, and it’s gotten harder . . . But you are trained, you are well-equipped, you have the skills and abilities to handle the situation that is coming at you.”