Drive safe – or else – this holiday weekend

Notwithstanding statewide progress in the fight against drunk driving over the past decade, drunk driving is still killing six people a year in Augusta County, according to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles data of alcohol-related traffic deaths averaged over the last five years.  Augusta County averaged the 11th most drunk-driving fatalities in Virginia during the 2006 to 2010 period.

The Commonwealth averaged 243 drunk driving deaths a year – approximately two DUI deaths every three days – over the five-year period.  Across Virginia, 37 percent of all traffic fatalities are alcohol-related, according to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles data.

The Augusta County Sheriff’s Office is participating in the Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign, which is stopping drunk driving through a combination of public education and stepped-up law-enforcement efforts. So if your Thanksgiving plans include alcohol with your turkey and football, the road is absolutely the last place to end the day.

“Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends and reflect on the year’s good fortune. But killing or hurting yourself or someone else by driving under the influence is nothing to be thankful for,” said Kurt Erickson, president of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, the project director of the region’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign.”Our message to drivers is simple this holiday weekend:  Drive sober or get pulled over.”

This year marks the 10th year of the Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign and the campaign is paying life-saving dividends:   Since 2001, Virginia has seen a 23-percent decrease in alcohol-related traffic fatalities and a 32-percent decrease in alcohol-related traffic injuries.

Throughout November and December 2011, the Augusta County officers are focused on keeping roads free from drunk drivers. Augusta County law-enforcement efforts include sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols and increased enforcement around the holidays.

Across Virginia in 2010, 32,760 drunk-driving arrests weremade, which resulted in 29,063 convictions – an average of one DUI conviction every 18 minutes.

Checkpoint Strikeforce is a research-based, zero-tolerance campaign in the Mid-Atlantic states designed to both identify and apprehend drunk drivers through sobriety checkpoints and other enhanced law-enforcement efforts and to educate the public about the dangers and consequences of drunk driving. Nearly 43,000 ads will run on a total of 84 broadcast stations, cable systems and radio stations in Virginia this year with additional ads being broadcast separately in Northern Virginia.


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