The U.S. Dept. of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) this week kicked off the annual "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" winter holiday crackdown on drunk and drugged driving.
To further deter drunk driving, NHTSA released a "Model Guideline for State Ignition Interlock Programs" that will help states develop and implement a breath alcohol ignition interlock program based on highly successful practices from the U.S. and around the world.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said: "This year, with the release of our model guidelines for ignition interlock programs, we're helping states improve their efforts to enforce safe driving among convicted offenders, which is crucial to ending these unnecessary deaths."
Last year, deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers increased 4.6 percent, taking 10,322 lives compared to 9,865 in 2011. The majority of those crashes involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher – nearly double the legal limit. During last year's holiday season alone, 830 lives were lost in drunk driving crashes.
Previous NHTSA research of convicted drunk drivers show that those with interlocks installed are 75 percent less likely to repeat the behavior compared to those who do not. The guideline emphasizes several key program features to maximize effectiveness – including legislation, education, program administration, and implementation.
"It is unacceptable and downright offensive that anyone would get behind the wheel drunk, let alone at twice the legal limit," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "I urge the states to adopt our new guidelines to protect sober motorists and ensure that individuals convicted of drunk driving learn from their mistakes."
According to NHTSA's latest issue of Safety 1n Num3ers, the holiday enforcement on drunk drivers comes at a time of year when crashes involving alcohol increase. Over the past decade, almost two of every five (41 percent) deaths that occur around the New Year's holiday and the Christmas holiday (37 percent) were alcohol-impaired, compared to 31 percent nationally over the past ten years.
The crackdown runs from December 13 – January 1, 2014, and is supported by $7.5 million in national advertising in TV and radio advertising featuring NHTSA's "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign. The ads are designed to raise awareness and support law enforcement activities in every state in an effort to reduce drunk driving deaths.