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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 01:33 PM ET, 12/13/2011

DOT launches nationwide crackdown on drunk drivers

The holiday season brings with it office parties, seasonal celebrations and trips to see family and friends. For many people, that means having a few drinks. The U.S. Department of Transportation wants to make sure these revelers stay out of the driver’s seat.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Tuesday at the Arlington County Courthouse a nationwide crackdown during the holiday season. The effort will involve a combination of enforcement and reminders that police and other agencies will be out in force over the holidays.

“We’re making gains in our fight against drunk driving, but we cannot and will not let up,” LaHood said in a statement.

LaHood was joined by local law enforcement officers as well as David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Jan Withers, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The increased awareness will come through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign. There will be a $7 million dollar advertising campaign running from Friday through Jan. 2, with commercials depicting drunk drivers being arrested when they get behind the wheel.

Last week one of LaHood’s top lieutenants, Randy Babbitt, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, resigned three days after Fairfax City police arrested him on a drunken driving charge. He is set to appear in court on Feb. 2

The number of fatal crashes involving a driver or motorcycle rider impaired by alcohol decreased last year compared to 2009, as did the overall number of people killed in vehicular accidents, according to data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis.

More than 32,000 people were killed in crashes last year, but nearly a third of those deaths were in accidents that involved drunk drivers.

Area residents who drink have an easy way to avoid driving: The SoberRide program, which provides free taxi rides to people who shouldn’t be behind the wheel, returns on Friday and runs through Jan. 1, 2012.

The service is available to people age 21 and older and covers a cab fare up to $30 (riders have to cover anything over that amount). Area residents can call SoberRide toll-free at 800-200-TAXI each night from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.

SoberRide is available in the District as well as Virginia (Arlington, Fairfax, eastern Loudoun and Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park) and Maryland (Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the cities of Rockville, Bowie, College Park, Gaithersburg, Greenbelt and Takoma Park).

In Washington, Maryland and Virginia, the overall number of people killed in crashes and the number of deaths occurring in crashes involving drunk drivers declined last year when compared to 2009, according to NHTSA. All told, 370 people in the District, Maryland and Virginia died last year in car crashes involving drunk drivers, down from 419 such deaths the year before.

By  |  01:33 PM ET, 12/13/2011

 
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