Even after decades of fighting against the deadly decision to drink and drive, the fight to eliminate impaired driving is far from over. A critical component to this fight is the anti-drunk driving campaign “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” coordinated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Between August 17 and September 3, more than 10,000 police departments across the country will contribute to this campaign’s success. And, in a sentiment shared by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, this is a sign to those who still choose to drink and drive that they will be caught, and they will be held accountable.
Tackling the problem of impaired driving requires a systems approach; law enforcement is the first step. These high-visibility enforcement campaigns with their enhanced police presence and extensive media coverage are needed to create general deterrence – that is, convincing drivers not to get behind the wheel after drinking in the first place. And without the arrests made by law enforcement officers, imposing other countermeasures such as ignition interlocks and treatment won’t be effective.
A newly released Traffic Safety Fact Sheet by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirms that we have more work to do. In 2010, at least 70% of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities involved at least one driver with a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher. This is almost twice the legal limit. Even more alarming, the most frequently recorded BAC in fatal crashes was 0.18 percent. These are not just unfortunate accidents; these are flagrant violations of the law. And 10,228 people have paid the price. That’s why the NTSB includes Addressing Alcohol-Impaired Driving on its Most Wanted List.
And it’s exactly why we support the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign. If we are to reach zero crashes, injuries, and deaths from impaired driving, these high-visibility enforcement campaigns are necessary. We haven’t won the battle yet, but thanks to the dedicated law enforcement officers participating in this year’s campaign, we are moving one step closer.