Days after three children were killed in a fiery crash in Prince George’s County, officials held a press conference Friday in Oxon Hill to encourage safer driving.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks led the public outcry near the crash site along Route 210, also known as Indian Head Highway. The 21-mile road that stretches into Charles County has been marked by police and highway officials as one of the deadliest in the region.
Alsobrooks said the victims’ parents, Alexis and Juanita Meija of Falls Church, Virginia, remain hospitalized at Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly. The family’s sedan was struck from behind by a speeding pickup truck after attending a worship service Sunday night.
The couple’s 5-year-old twins, Alexander and Rosalie, and 13-month-old son Isaac were killed in the crash.
“We believe it is important to come together to send a message that it is not business as usual on Route 210,” Alsobrooks said. “If you are speeding … we are going to be looking for you.
“This is a death trap that should not be so,” she said. “No amount of enforcement will matter unless the community accepts its responsibility as well.”
Two posters highlighted the county’s traffic enforcement efforts on Route 210 the past three years. According to county data, police conducted 15,600 traffic stops and investigated 1,019 traffic accidents between 2016-18.
Prince George’s Police Chief Hank Stawinski said the department issued more 10,000 citations and made 70 traffic-related arrests along the highway last year. He said initiatives such as targeting aggressive and distracted driving, excessive speeding and DWI enforcement with checkpoints and roving patrols led to those numbers.
Although Route 210 is labeled a state highway, county police patrol it.
“This county executive has made it clear to me that we’ll continue this trend,” Stawinski said. “In 2019, you will see more traffic stops. You’ll see more citations. I ask that we all pause. We all [must] examine our driving behavior … throughout Prince George’s County.”
The man driving the truck, who investigators suspect was drunk, was briefly taken into custody but released pending toxicology results.
Stawinski said the driver’s license of the motorist who caused the crash has been suspended. However, state law provides motorists a provisional license to drive back and forth to their places of employment only.
The department will work with Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy to continue a detailed investigation before formally charging the driver, since the legal principle of double jeopardy prevents the driver from being charged twice for a single offense.
When the Maryland General Assembly reconvenes Wednesday to begin the 90-day session in Annapolis, Delegate Kris Valderrama (D-District 26) of Fort Washington will present legislation to allow a roving camera at various locations and add more speed cameras at non-intersections along Route 210.
Last year, Valderrama led an effort where lawmakers approved to hoist one camera that faces southbound at Route 210 and Old Fort Road near the Livingston Square shopping center in Fort Washington.
“When people hear ‘speed cameras,’ they hear ‘money generator,’” she said. “The first thing I said to my colleagues, ‘If it’s a money generator, then so be it. Slow down.’ The whole point of this is to save lives.”