Labor Day is the second most deadly day of the year on America’s highways, according to the Governors Highway Safety Assn., mostly due to accidents involving impaired drivers. Because of this, GHSA’s member state highway safety offices are joining forces with federal and local officials to conduct the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Labor Day drunk driving crackdown.
From now through Sept. 5, police in every state will be out in full force conducting sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols to catch drunk drivers. This high-visibility law enforcement campaign is supported by $13 million in national and state advertisements.
“Drunk driving is not an accident — it is blatant disregard for human life,” said GHSA Chairman Vernon F. Betkey, Jr.. GHSA pointed out that in 2009, nearly 11,000 people died in crashes in which a driver or motorcycle rider was at or above the legal alcohol limit.
The crackdown was marked Monday by an event at the DOT led by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator David Strickland and GHSA’s Betkey spoke, along with partners from MADD and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Betkey noted that Labor Day Weekend is a dangerous time on our nation’s roadways. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Sept. 2 is the second most deadly day of the year. According to Betkey, “To keep our friends and neighbors safe, our partners in law enforcement will be out in force looking for drunk and drugged drivers.”
Betkey said ignition interlocks are a promising technology to deter drunk driving. These devices, connected to a car’s ignition, monitor the presence of alcohol in the driver and prevent the car from starting if alcohol is detected. Fourteen states and four California counties have made ignition interlocks mandatory or highly incentivized for all convicted drunk drivers, even convicted first-time offenders.
Utilizing funding from NHTSA and the Centers for Disease Control, GHSA is conducting research to help states develop the most effective ignition interlock programs.
States across the nation are actively participating in the crackdown. Among state highlights:
• The California Highway Patrol is mounting a holiday weekend Maximum Enforcement campaign, with 80% of available officers on the roads.
• The Rhode Island Office on Highway Safety conducted a “wet lab” (a monitored drinking period where volunteers consume alcoholic beverages and then participate in a series of sobriety tests) and invited the media to attend to show them what happens when a drug or alcohol impaired driver gets pulled over.
• In Texas, numerous communities are conducting “No Refusal” weekends, an enforcement strategy that allows jurisdictions to quickly obtain search warrants for blood samples from suspected impaired drivers who refuse breath tests.
• To encourage full participation by law enforcement, the Vermont Governor’s Highway Safety Program offers rewards — in the form of police equipment — to all agencies that complete specific campaign requirements.
• Washington Traffic Safety Commission has an ambitious earned media effort highlighting the three weeks of extra DUI patrols and Hailey’s Law — a new statute requiring a 12-hour impound for all DUI arrestees’ cars.
A full list of state-specific crackdown efforts is available on GHSA’s website at: www.ghsa.org/html/projects/dd/otlua/laborday11.html.