Drunken driving prevention and awareness campaigns are being held in Maryland and Virginia ahead of the Labor Day holiday.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam kicked off the 20th annual Checkpoint Strikeforce DUI enforcement and public education campaign on Thursday. The initiative uses sobriety checkpoints and patrols designed to get impaired drivers off the roads.
The traffic safety campaign takes place through Labor Day weekend, and it will resume during the winter holiday season. Drivers will see “high-visibility enforcement that reminds Virginians to get a safe ride after drinking or face arrest,” according to a news release.
In all, 128 law enforcement agencies in Virginia will participate, conducting 559 saturation patrols and 74 sobriety checkpoints across the state.
“The tireless efforts of Checkpoint Strikeforce over the past 20 years have been critical in reminding Virginians of the importance of getting a safe ride after drinking,” Northam said in a statement.
Virginia State Police said it will work through Labor Day as part of Operation CARE (Crash Awareness Reduction Effort), 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 seat belts.
The Washington Regional Alcohol Program, or WRAP, is also partnering with the Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign.
In Virginia, 32% of all traffic fatalities last year were due to alcohol-related crashes, and some 14,000 people were convicted of a DUI.
“During last year’s Labor Day weekend alone, Virginia State troopers arrested 55 drunk drivers, averaging a DUI arrest every 104 minutes,” according to a news release from Northam’s office.
A survey by Lake Research Partners found that men between the ages of 21 and 35 years old are most likely to drive after drinking. Last year, 90% of men who were surveyed said they have driven after a few drinks or have been driven by someone who had a few drinks, Northam’s office said.
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Meanwhile, in Maryland, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is teaming up with police on Saturday for the third nationwide “Saturation Saturday.”
These virtual and in-person events highlight impaired driving prevention efforts during the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign” that continues through Labor Day.
The event includes sobriety checkpoints, anti-drunken driving advertising and increased DUI patrols, among others, a MADD news release said.
Agencies participating in “Saturation Saturday” include Anne Arundel County Police, Howard County Police, the Maryland Natural Resources Police, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, Frederick Police, Maryland State Police and the Montgomery County Alcohol Initiatives Unit.
Even during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the NHTSA, drunken driving fatalities increased 9% despite fewer vehicle miles traveled during the pandemic, MADD said.
“The past year and a half have been treacherous on our roads, with an increase in drunken driving, speeding and other hazardous driving behavior,” MADD National President Alex Otte said.
She is urging everyone to plan ahead before the first drink, including the use of ride-sharing services, public transportation, taxis and other options. “There is never an excuse to drink and drive.”
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