Nearly Half of U.S. Highway
Fatalities on New Year’s Involve Drunk Drivers
RICHMOND, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Law enforcement throughout Virginia this week are readying for a holiday
statistically synonymous with drunk driving.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, nearly
half (43.5%) of all U.S. traffic fatalities, on average, during New
Year’s Days between 2010 and last year involved a driver with a blood
alcohol concentration over the legal limit of .08.
“The fact that alcohol-related deaths and injuries on Virginia’s
highways are decreasing is encouraging, but we still need all drivers to
get the message,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia
State Police Superintendent. “Drunk driving isn’t a victimless
crime. You could kill yourself or someone else, or get a DUI and go to
jail. We need every driver to make smart, safe and sober decisions.”
As part of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) Highway
Safety Office’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign, local and state law
enforcement agencies throughout Virginia continue to increase
enforcement efforts in December to identify and apprehend
alcohol-impaired drivers on the Commonwealth’s roadways.
This month alone, Virginia State Police and local law enforcement plan
to conduct or have conducted an estimated 98 sobriety checkpoints and
763 saturation patrols from December 1, 2016 through January 1, 2017,
according to Virginia DMV.
“On average and since 2010, over 43-percent of all U.S. highway
deaths on New Year’s involve drunk drivers,” said Kurt Gregory
Erickson, President of the Virginia-based nonprofit Washington Regional
Alcohol Program, the project director of Virginia’s Checkpoint
Strikeforce campaign. “And this month through New Year’s Day, the
net around drunk drivers in Virginia has never been tighter.”
Penalties for even a first-time DUI conviction in Virginia include
mandatory ignition interlock installation on the offender’s vehicle as
well as fines up to $2,500, suspension periods up to one year and jail
sentences also up to one year.
Started in 2002, Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign is part of a
research-based multi-state, zero-tolerance initiative designed to get
impaired drivers off the roads using checkpoints and patrols along with
education about the dangers and consequences of driving while
intoxicated. While aiming to reach all potential drunk drivers, the
statewide enforcement and education campaign specifically focuses on
males aged 21 to 35, a demographic representing nearly a third of all
persons killed in Virginia’s alcohol-related traffic crashes last year.
In addition to its high-visibility law enforcement component, Virginia’s
2016 Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign includes a preventative, multimedia
campaign celebrating the “beauty” of designated sober drivers featuring
approximately 35,000 campaign ads running on nearly 70 television, cable
and radio stations in Virginia as well as both movie theater and digital
advertising in the Commonwealth. The TV spots, introduced last year,
proactively communicate that “nothing’s more beautiful than a safe ride
home” whether it’s in a cab, public transportation, with a sober friend
or through a transportation network company such as Uber or Lyft.
(Virginia’s 30-second Checkpoint Strikeforce television spot can be
viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDoe_Ibw-R0.)
Additionally, the statewide traffic safety campaign includes a social
media component via the handle @VABeautifulRide and hashtags
#CelebrateDD and #SafeRide encouraging the raising of a virtual glass to
a beautiful part of the holiday season — designated sober drivers.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of 1,000 male drivers ages 21-35 surveyed in
Virginia and Maryland between July 28th and August 9th
and as part of the 2016 Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign’s public opinion
survey conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based Lake Research Partners
found that while designating a driver was the top answer as to how 21-35
year olds “plan a safe ride home,” less than two-thirds (59%) frequently
plan ahead for said safe ride home.
Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign is supported by a grant from
DMV, the Virginia Highway Safety Office to the nonprofit and
Virginia-based Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP).
Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP)