The U.S. Department of Transportation kicked off a nationwide crackdown on drunk driving coinciding with the 2011 winter holiday season. New data show drunk driving deaths declined in 2010 in many parts of the country. However, the data also show that fatalities from alcohol-impaired driving crashes continue to account for one in three deaths on American roadways each year.
“Safety is our focus year-round at DOT,’ ” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “But this holiday season, we’re stepping up our efforts to get drunk drivers off our roads and reminding Americans ‘drive sober or get pulled over.’ We’re making gains in our fight against drunk driving, but we cannot and will not let up.”
New state-by-state data for 2010 released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show a decline in drunk driving fatalities in 32 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Compared with 2009, California and Florida saw the largest reductions, with each declining by more than 100 fatalities last year.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have outlawed driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. Yet NHTSA data show that last year, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, including 415 during the second half of December alone.
The education and enforcement effort is the latest push in DOT’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign involving thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country. The winter holiday enforcement crackdown is supported by a $7 million national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” advertisement campaign that runs from Dec.16 through Jan. 2.
The ads, which first premiered this past summer, feature “invisible” law enforcement officers observing alcohol-impaired individuals and then apprehending them when they attempt to drive their vehicles. The ads are designed to raise awareness and support law enforcement activities in every state. They convey the message that law enforcement officers are vigilant in deterring drunk drivers.
“Thanks to the hard work of law enforcement and safety advocates and the incredible commitment of organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, we are making real progress in reducing drunk driving deaths,” says NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “Our message to drivers is clear – if you decide to drink, find a safe and sober ride home, or you will be pulled over.”