Earlier this week, National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland kicked off our annual drunk driving enforcement effort. Our "Over the Limit, Under Arrest" campaign has one simple--but important--goal: Get drunk drivers off America's roads.
To help us achieve that goal, we have coordinated with more than 11,000 law enforcement agencies across the country to step-up enforcement from now through the Labor Day holiday weekend. Whether it's a checkpoint or increased vigilance, the Department of Transportation appreciates their front-line assistance in helping us keep our roads safe.
Launching the enforcement effort, Administrator Strickland said:
"Our message is loud and clear. If you drive drunk you will be arrested and prosecuted. There will be no exceptions and no excuses. And if you’re below the age of 21, there is zero tolerance for any alcohol in your system whatsoever.”
And we have 17 million reasons to be tough. That's because, this week, NHTSA released results of a new study showing that 8% of all drivers--as many as 17 million Americans--admitted to driving when they thought they were over the limit in the last year. That's seventeen million drunk drivers on our roads in the last year.
Now, that's only when they recognized they were over the limit. One out of five respondents said they had driven within two hours of drinking--many within the past 30 days. According to the Detroit News, that means, "86 million Americans in any given month drove within two hours of drinking--up from 74 million in 2004." Imagine how many of these drivers were drunk without being aware of their impaired ability.
Many of you already recognize the dangers drunk driving still poses. Four out of five Americans in the NHTSA report identified drunk driving as a “major threat” to their own and their family’s safety.
But, for those who remain unconvinced, let me remind you that in 2008, 31% of fatal car crashes, or 10,684 accidents, involved an alcohol-impaired driver. Drunk driving remains a significant danger on our roadways.
That's why Administrator Strickland was so emphatic when he said, "We have got to do more to close the gap between believing that drunk driving is a threat and actively doing something about it."
And that's why the nation's law enforcement agencies will be a visible presence on our roadways during the next 10 days. And why NHTSA is supporting their work with $13 million in radio and television public service announcements to let people know that drunk driving is deadly, and it is against the law.
With the help of law enforcement around the country, we are going to continue doing all we can to stop drunk driving and prevent the needless tragedies that result from this reckless behavior.