Virginia State Police: Drive to save lives

policecar3This time of year, with all the holiday parties and festive occasions, many partygoers will be drinking. If you’re celebrating with alcohol this holiday season, the Virginia State Police has a message for you:  Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.

Due to the increase in drunk-driving-related fatalities around the holidays each year, law enforcement across America will be out in force, Dec. 12, 2014 – Jan. 1, 2015, actively searching for drunk drivers. The facts are grim: in December 2012 nationwide there were 830 people killed in crashes involving at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher; 26 of those deaths occurred on Christmas Day. On average, a third (31%) of all crash fatalities in America involves drunk driving.  But on Christmas day 2012, the percentage jumps to 36 percent.

Over the past five years, Virginia’s alcohol-related traffic fatalities have decreased 20 percent. Injuries resulting from alcohol-related traffic crashes in Virginia have decreased 15 percent during the same period, from 2009 to 2013.*

“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. Let’s drive to save lives in these remaining weeks of 2014.”

It’s illegal in Virginia to drive over the limit of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL). And it might not take as much alcohol as you think to get there. So the safest approach is to only drive sober. If you plan on drinking at a holiday party, bar, or restaurant, let someone else do the driving – a sober friend, a taxi or public transportation.

Every year, more than 10,322 people are killed by drunk drivers in America. It’s one of the primary missions of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to drastically reduce this toll on our nation. So as part of the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over enforcement campaign period, Virginia state troopers will be among law enforcement nationwide increasing their number of patrols and participating in DUI checkpoints.

If you’re drinking and driving, state police will find and arrest you. No warnings, no excuses. You’ll face jail time, fines, loss of your driver’s license, towing fees, and other DUI expenses, totaling $10,000 on average. Not to mention the humiliation among your family, friends, and workplace.

In addition to reminding all drivers to drive sober, it is just as important for everyone to be alert. If you see a drunk driver on the road, call the police right away—you could save a life. If someone you know is about to drive after drinking, take their keys and help them get home safely. “We’ve got to work together to make our roads safer this December and year-round,” Flaherty said.

Some startling data from NHTSA shows that during the holiday season in 2012, 40 percent of the drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes had at least one prior DUI on their record.  And many offenders are young drivers: during that same holiday period 37 percent of the 21- to 24-year old drivers in fatal crashes were drunk.  Surprisingly, almost 1 out of 6 drivers under the age of 21 in those fatal crashes were also drunk, even though they’re too young to legally buy or consume alcohol.

“We can’t stand to see this tragic loss of life again and again,” added Flaherty. “It’s heartbreaking to drive up to a house all decorated for the holidays, and knock on the door to deliver such terrible news. So leading up to the holidays, we are really cracking down, and we will show zero tolerance for drunk drivers on the road.”

Area drivers, please follow these tips to keep the holidays safe and happy:

  • Even one drink can impair your judgment and increase the risk of getting arrested for driving drunk—or worse, the risk of having a crash.
  • If you will be drinking, do not plan on driving.  Plan ahead; designate a sober driver before the party begins.
  • If you have been drinking, do not drive. Call a taxi, phone a sober friend or family member, or just stay put.

Remember, it is never safe to drink and drive: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.