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DOT_department_transportation_nyreblog_com_.jpgUSDOT Warns Drivers: 'Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over'

~ New nationwide ad campaign, annual crackdown under way as research shows pre-dawn drunk driving crashes claim a life every 23 minutes ~

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) marked its annual enforcement crackdown and the launch of a nationwide, multi-year advertising campaign aimed at getting drunk drivers off the road: "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over." With new research showing fatal crashes involving drunk drivers occur most frequently between the hours of midnight and 3AM--when drunk driving crashes claim a life every 23 minutes--the efforts are particularly focused on nighttime enforcement.

"While we have made great strides in reducing drunk driving over the years, tragically, drunk driving remains one of the leading causes of death and injury on America's roads," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Through our new national advertising campaign and stepped up law enforcement actions, we're sending a powerful message to the American driving public--'Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.'"

A new analysis by DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows the highest risk of being involved in a fatal crash with a drunk driver occurs between the hours of midnight and 3AM. Fully two thirds of the fatal crashes during these pre-dawn hours involve drunk drivers. Other key findings include:

• One in four of the nearly 11,000 people killed in a crash involving a drunk driver in 2009 died between the hours of midnight and 3AM.
• One in three drivers aged 21 to 24 years old involved in fatal crashes were alcohol-impaired. Drivers aged 25 to 34 years old were the second most likely to be involved in these types of crashes.
• The next worst times of day with particularly high percentages of alcohol-impaired crashes were 9PM to midnight and 3AM to 6AM.

New advertising released by DOT this month and running in major media markets across the country features "invisible" law enforcement officers observing alcohol-impaired individuals unseen before apprehending them when they attempt to drive their vehicles. The ads convey the message that law enforcement officers are both omnipresent and vigilant in deterring drunk drivers. Coinciding with the advertising push, states are engaged in stepped up enforcement efforts in communities nationwide. The ad theme and slogan will comprise DOT's core drunk driving message for 2011 - 2016.

"Law enforcement officers across the country are out in force, cracking down on anyone who breaks the law and drives drunk," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "If you've had too much to drink, don't even think about getting behind the wheel. You may not see them, but they will see you. Don't risk it."

Targeting drivers in the final weeks of summer from August 19 through the Labor Day holiday weekend, the annual crackdown is focused on reducing the tragic toll caused by impaired drivers every year. The efforts involve more than 10,000 police departments and other law enforcement agencies across the nation, who will be redoubling their efforts during this high-risk travel period to ensure that impaired drivers are detected and arrested.

"High visibility law enforcement is an important part of MADD's Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving," said MADD National President Jan Withers. "MADD is proud to partner with NHTSA and the heroes who keep our roads safe to remind the public to Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over."

NHTSA's study evaluating alcohol fatalities by time of day is available at http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811523.pdf .

The new advertisements and a behind-the-scenes look at how the "invisible" police officers were created are available at http://drivesober.nhtsa.gov/ .