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December 23,  2002

Historic Impaired Driving Crackdown Is Launched;
NHTSA Releases State-By-State Report

(SafetyAlerts) - As part of the U.S. Department of Transportation?s renewed battle against impaired drivers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today launched the longest ever crackdown against drunk and drugged driving.

Joined by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), AAA, and state and local law enforcement agencies, NHTSA kicked-off its national campaign: You Drink & Drive. You Lose. From December 20 to January 5, 2003, thousands of law enforcement officers will be out in full force conducting sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to protect citizens from this serious and deadly crime.

?Impaired drivers represent one of our nation?s greatest threats,? said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D. ?There are nearly one billion drinking and driving trips annually which kill more than 45 people every day. This crime will not be tolerated. Today marks the beginning of a yearlong effort focused on what we know prevents impaired driving ? highly visible detection, arrest and prosecution.?

?We know much more about drugged driving now than we have in the past,? said ONDCP Director John Walters. ?Last year an estimated 8 million people drove while under the influence of an illicit drug. The White House is committed to enhancing federal efforts to help states and local communities protect all Americans from impaired driving.?

?There will be no warnings,? said North Miami Beach Police Chief William Berger, representing the International Association of Chiefs of Police. ?Drive impaired and you will be spending your money on bail and towing fees instead of holiday gifts.?

NHTSA today released the State Alcohol Related Fatality Rates Report which, for the first time, documents the extent of alcohol related fatalities in traffic crashes from 1982 to 2001 for every State, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

After years of gradual improvement, fatalities in alcohol-related crashes are on the rise nationally. NHTSA estimates that in 2001, 17,448 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, representing approximately 41 percent of the 42,116 total traffic fatalities that year.

?This report will help all of us understand where improvements are needed in state and local awareness and enforcement programs,? said MADD National President Wendy J. Hamilton, whose sister Becky and nephew Timmy were killed in a drunk driving crash. ?We hope Americans will take notice of this wake-up call as one victim of drunk driving is one too many.?

With millions of people expected on America's highways during this extended holiday season, the next two weeks could be one of the deadliest periods ever for impaired driving fatalities. AAA expects more than 46 million Americans to travel by automobile during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

?We remind everyone that being responsible begins before you get behind the wheel. Be sure to have a designated driver and, if you?re hosting a party, make sure your guests get home safely,? said Bella Dinh-Zarr, Ph.D., AAA national director of traffic safety policy. ?Don?t let the celebration spill out onto the road.?

Studies from the NHTSA show that the majority of Americans consider drunk driving one of the nation?s most important social issues, ahead of healthcare, poverty/hunger, racism and education. Nearly 97 percent of Americans view drunk driving as a major threat to the community. As a result, the majority of Americans support increased enforcement efforts like saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints to protect innocent victims. Furthermore, two-thirds of Americans also strongly endorse the use of stricter and more severe penalties against drunk drivers.

The You Drink & Drive. You Lose. campaign reminds everyone:

Don?t risk it -- If you plan to drive, don?t drink or use any drugs.
Choose a sober designated driver before celebrating.
Take mass transit, a taxicab or ask a friend to drive you home.
Spend the night where the activity is being held.
Report impaired drivers to law enforcement.
Always wear your safety belt.
The You Drink & Drive. You Lose. National Mobilization, launched in December 1999, is a comprehensive impaired driving prevention effort focused on conducting highly visible criminal justice-related efforts to deter impaired driving.

The State Alcohol Related Fatality Rates Report can be accessed at

Source: NHTSA

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