Woman pleads in crash case
Drove intoxicated with infants; collision set fire to two vehicles
A Lusby woman pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated Wednesday in district court for reportedly causing a May crash that left two cars engulfed in flames.
Traveling with twin 6-month-olds secured in car seats, Nicole Marie Bland, 32, drove her Dodge Caravan into a Chevrolet Cavalier, pushing the car into oncoming traffic and causing it to be hit by a Toyota Prius. The Cavalier and Prius caught on fire. One driver had some serious injuries, and the twins were not injured.
After the accident, Bland faced a number of traffic charges, including driving under the influence, negligent driving, reckless driving and using a handheld phone while the car is in motion, online court records showed.
State’s Attorney Montra Martin said Wednesday in court that the prosecution and defense came to a compromised plea deal with which neither party is happy.
Under Maryland Impaired Driving Laws, the conviction of driving while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol or both carries up to 60 days of jail time for a first offense. A conviction of driving under the influence, which indicates substantial impairment, carries a much higher sentence — up to one year of imprisonment for a first offense.
As a first offender, Bland reportedly said she had sleep issues the night prior with her two young children and had taken prescribed medication that could have affected her ability to drive.
According to Martin, Bland also said she had
some head trauma from the accident, though she reportedly told Dfc. Stephen Bowlan of the sheriff’s office that she did not have any head injuries right after the accident. Bland reportedly failed the field sobriety test and was deemed impaired by the officer. At the time, she reportedly refused to take a breath test.
Martin told District Court Judge Michelle Saunders that the two sides have agreed to a 30day suspended sentence, though the final sentence is up to the judge. Martin said the government would also ask Bland to be evaluated for substance use.
The accident at the intersection of Route 2 and Wayside Drive in Sunderland came to police attention around 3:05 p.m. May 12. Bowlan responded to the scene to find two cars engulfed in flames. When the cars caught fire, police said nearby citizens helped remove the occupants from their burning vehicles.
Bland reportedly told police that she was traveling northbound on Route 2 and looked down at her phone for GPS direction. When she looked up, she said she realized she was about to hit the Chevrolet, driven by Mathew Smith of Bushwood, who was waiting to make a turn at Wayside Drive. Her car ended up hitting Smith’s car, pushing it into oncoming traffic. Smith’s car was stuck again by the Prius heading south.
Smith, 30, was transported to medical care via helicopter due to his injuries.
Rachel Broderick of Huntingtown, the driver of the Prius, said in court Wednesday there doesn’t seem to be any remorse or sympathy coming from Bland. She clarified later in an email that she didn’t have any contact with Bland since the accident and said Bland doesn’t seem remorseful to her because she didn’t even give her the courtesy of looking at her while she addressed the court.
In a victim impact statement, Broderick wrote that she “thought for sure that I was going to die” when she realized her car was going to hit Smith’s car.
At that brief moment, she said she thought about her kids and her husband, David, whose father died in a car accident when he was a child.
“I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t dead. I also couldn’t believe my car was on fire,” she wrote, noting the accident happened the day before Mother’s Day.
“My kids had made me cards and bought the ingredients to make me breakfast in bed,” she wrote. “What if my husband had to tell them that night that they wouldn’t be able to give me those cards the next morning, or ever, because I was dead, the way his mom had to tell her sons that their dad was dead?”
Broderick said in court she finds it terrible that there are loopholes that allow someone who could seriously hurt somebody, including her own children, to not be prosecuted for a more serious charge.
Bland’s lawyer Larry Lamson responded in court that his client is remorseful.
“She wants people to know she didn’t intentionally do this, and she definitely did not want to hurt her own children,” he said while Bland stood next to him.
Saunders said she wants to see Bland in treatment and set the sentencing date for Dec. 21.
Two cars were engulfed in flames on May 12 after a crash at the Route 2 and Wayside Drive intersection in Sunderland.