The announcement came as tens of thousands of officers from law enforcement agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico mobilize for a campaign against impaired driving tomorrow through Jan. 4, 2004. During the campaign they will conduct sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols.
A state-by-state report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents the extent of alcohol-related fatalities in traffic crashes in states from 1982-2002 and down to the county level for 2002.
The campaign in support of the U.S. Department of Transportation's annual "You Drink & Drive. You Lose." national crackdown will consist of 16 consecutive nights of enforcement activities to identify and arrest alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers.
"The Bush Administration is committed to improving transportation safety for all travelers, and this campaign underscores that commitment," Secretary Mineta said. "With this campaign we are putting violators on notice that if they drink and drive, they face the prospect of being caught, arrested, and prosecuted."
After years of gradual improvement, fatalities in alcohol-related crashes are on the rise nationally. In 2002, more than 17,000 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes on the nation's highways, representing a death every 30 minutes. An estimated 258,000 people were injured in crashes where police reported that alcohol was present an average of one person injured approximately every two minutes.
"Impaired drivers represent one of our nation's greatest threats," said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D. "There is no excuse to lose more than 40 lives a day, especially when it is 100 percent preventable."
With millions of people expected on America's highways during the holiday season, the Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) anticipates that the next two weeks could be one of the deadliest periods ever for impaired driving fatalities. AAA expects more than 48.5 million people (81 percent of all travelers) to travel by automobile over the holiday period, a 2.5 percent increase from the 47.3 million who drove a year ago.
NHTSA studies show that Americans consider drunk driving an important social issue, ahead of health care, poverty and the environment. Nearly 97 percent of Americans view drinking and driving by others as a threat to their families and themselves.
A new Gallup poll found that 86 percent of Americans support increased enforcement to catch impaired drivers, and more than six out of ten believe that drunk driving should be considered a crime that will result in jail time.
Since 1981, December has been designated by Presidential proclamation as "National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month" (3D Month). Earlier this month Dr. Runge unveiled a new departmental plan to address impaired driving, including high visibility traffic enforcement, enhanced support for DWI prosecution and adjudication, and medical screening and brief intervention of high-risk populations for alcohol use problems.
The "You Drink and Drive. You Lose" campaign, 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 campaign reminds everyone of the following imperatives:
- 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.
For more information on the "You Drink and Drive. You Lose." campaign, go to NHTSA's web site.