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Checkpoint Strikeforce enforcement campaign takes aim at curbing drinking, driving

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Virginia is launching its annual Checkpoint Strikeforce enforcement and public education campaign to combat drunk driving as the calendar moves in the direction of Labor Day weekend.

Last year, 31.9 percent of traffic fatalities in Virginia were due to alcohol-related crashes, and 18,648 people were convicted of driving under the influence in the Commonwealth.

During the 2019 Labor Day weekend alone, Virginia State Police personnel arrested 76 drunk drivers, averaging a DUI arrest every 75 minutes.

Serious stuff there.

“This has been a challenging year, and now more than ever, we are all focused on keeping our loved ones safe,” Gov. Ralph Northam said. “I am asking Virginians to apply the same collective action and shared responsibility that we have harnessed to stop the spread of COVID-19 to reverse the trends of drunk driving.

“The work of Checkpoint Strikeforce is a critical part of our efforts to reduce the number of fatalities on Virginia’s roads, and the message is simple: if you are old enough to drink, act like it—never get behind the wheel after you have been drinking,” Northam said.

Unfortunately, the fake PR preachiness from the governor detracts a bit from the real-life seriousness of where we are right now.

A recent CDC report indicates that 13.3 percent of U.S. adults reported having started or increased their substance use in the past 30 days to cope with the stress of the public health response to COVID-19, which has put millions out of work.

More than one in 10 of us reported seriously considering suicide in the past 30 days.

It’s not simply an issue of “if you’re old enough to drink, act like it,” but that’s how governors like to talk anymore, like scoldy parents from TV sitcoms.

Don’t drink and drive should suffice.

This isn’t even science; it’s basic common sense.

“Last year, 264 Virginians died on our roadways in alcohol-impaired traffic crashes—but even one death is too many,” said Kurt Erickson, president and CEO of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program. “This year, increased patrols will be complemented by an innovative ad campaign that reflects the changes to socializing in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and reminds Virginians that drinking and driving is not only irresponsible, it can be deadly.”

Virginia State Police will work through Labor Day weekend as part of Operation CARE, or Crash Awareness Reduction Effort. Operation CARE is a nationwide, state-sponsored traffic safety program that aims to reduce traffic crashes, fatalities, and injuries caused by impaired driving, speeding, and failing to use occupant restraints.

Since the inception of Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign in 2002, alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities in the Commonwealth have been reduced 26.2 percent, and the number of alcohol-impaired traffic injuries annually occurring on the Virginia’s roadways have been nearly cut in half (46.3 percent).

Story by Chris Graham

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