RICHMOND, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Law enforcement throughout Virginia this week are readying for a holiday statistically synonymous with drunk driving.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, nearly half (43.5%) of all U.S. traffic fatalities, on average, during New Year’s Days between 2010 and last year involved a driver with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit of .08.
“The fact that alcohol-related deaths and injuries on Virginia’s highways are decreasing is encouraging, but we still need all drivers to get the message,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Drunk driving isn’t a victimless crime. You could kill yourself or someone else, or get a DUI and go to jail. We need every driver to make smart, safe and sober decisions.”
As part of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) Highway Safety Office’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign, local and state law enforcement agencies throughout Virginia continue to increase enforcement efforts in December to identify and apprehend alcohol-impaired drivers on the Commonwealth’s roadways.
This month alone, Virginia State Police and local law enforcement plan to conduct or have conducted an estimated 98 sobriety checkpoints and 763 saturation patrols from December 1, 2016 through January 1, 2017, according to Virginia DMV.
“On average and since 2010, over 43-percent of all U.S. highway deaths on New Year’s involve drunk drivers,” said Kurt Gregory Erickson, President of the Virginia-based nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program, the project director of Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign. “And this month through New Year’s Day, the net around drunk drivers in Virginia has never been tighter.”
Penalties for even a first-time DUI conviction in Virginia include mandatory ignition interlock installation on the offender’s vehicle as well as fines up to $2,500, suspension periods up to one year and jail sentences also up to one year.
Started in 2002, Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign is part of a research-based multi-state, zero-tolerance initiative designed to get impaired drivers off the roads using checkpoints and patrols along with education about the dangers and consequences of driving while intoxicated. While aiming to reach all potential drunk drivers, the statewide enforcement and education campaign specifically focuses on males aged 21 to 35, a demographic representing nearly a third of all persons killed in Virginia’s alcohol-related traffic crashes last year.
In addition to its high-visibility law enforcement component, Virginia’s 2016 Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign includes a preventative, multimedia campaign celebrating the “beauty” of designated sober drivers featuring approximately 35,000 campaign ads running on nearly 70 television, cable and radio stations in Virginia as well as both movie theater and digital advertising in the Commonwealth. The TV spots, introduced last year, proactively communicate that “nothing’s more beautiful than a safe ride home” whether it’s in a cab, public transportation, with a sober friend or through a transportation network company such as Uber or Lyft.
(Virginia’s 30-second Checkpoint Strikeforce television spot can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDoe_Ibw-R0.)
Additionally, the statewide traffic safety campaign includes a social media component via the handle @VABeautifulRide and hashtags #CelebrateDD and #SafeRide encouraging the raising of a virtual glass to a beautiful part of the holiday season -- designated sober drivers.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of 1,000 male drivers ages 21-35 surveyed in Virginia and Maryland between July 28th and August 9th and as part of the 2016 Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign’s public opinion survey conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based Lake Research Partners found that while designating a driver was the top answer as to how 21-35 year olds “plan a safe ride home,” less than two-thirds (59%) frequently plan ahead for said safe ride home.
Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign is supported by a grant from DMV, the Virginia Highway Safety Office to the nonprofit and Virginia-based Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP).