'Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over' Crackdown Under Way

December 14, 2011 Updated Dec 14, 2011 at 6:06 PM EDT

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'Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over' Crackdown Under Way

December 14, 2011 Updated Dec 14, 2011 at 6:06 PM EDT

Washington D.C. -- U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Tuesday kicked off a nationwide crackdown on drunk driving coinciding with the 2011 winter holiday season.

According to a news release issued Tuesday, new data shows drunk-driving deaths declined in 2010 in many parts of the country. However, the data also shows that fatalities from alcohol-impaired driving crashes continue to account for one in three deaths on American roadways each year.

"Safety is our focus year round at DOT. But this holiday season, we're stepping up our efforts to get drunk drivers off our roads and reminding Americans 'drive sober, or get pulled over,'" LaHood said in the news release. "We're making gains in our fight against drunk driving, but we cannot and will not let up."

New state-by-state data for 2010 released by the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show a decline in drunk driving fatalities in 32 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Compared with 2009, California and Florida saw the largest reductions — with each declining by more than 100 fatalities last year.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have outlawed driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. Yet NHTSA data show that last year, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, including 415 during the second half of December alone.

The education and enforcement effort is the latest push in the Department's "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign involving thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country. The winter holiday enforcement crackdown is supported by a $7 million national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over advertisement campaign that runs from December 16 through January 2. The ads, which first premiered this past summer, feature "invisible" law enforcement officers observing alcohol-impaired individuals and then apprehending them when they attempt to drive their vehicles. The ads are designed to raise awareness and support law enforcement activities in every state. They convey the message that law enforcement officers are vigilant in deterring drunk drivers.

"Thanks to the hard work of law enforcement and safety advocates and the incredible commitment of organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, we are making real progress in reducing drunk driving deaths," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "Our message to drivers is clear: if you decide to drink, find a safe and sober ride home or you will be pulled over."

Secretary LaHood and NHTSA Administrator Strickland were joined for today's announcement by Virginia law enforcement officials and Jan Withers, National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"The data clearly show that while drunk driving remains the primary threat to American families on our roadways, we have a path to progress," said Withers. "Increased enforcement efforts around the holidays are a vital part of MADD's Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, which relies on proven drunk driving countermeasures to eliminate the leading cause of highway fatalities."