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RICHMOND—In a news conference held today, Governor Ralph Northam and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles joined with local and state police to preview the upcoming period of increased enforcement to combat the rise in drunk driving deaths during Labor Day weekend. Supported by the 17th annual Checkpoint Strikeforce outreach campaign, the enforcement will take place from August 17th through Labor Day weekend, and resume periodically through target moments like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Eve.
“Virginia is a leader in traffic safety and the work of Checkpoint Strikeforce is a critical part of our efforts,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “While we have continued to reduce the amount of fatalities on our roads, those statistics are cold comfort to the families who have lost loved ones to drunk driving. The work we do over the next few months will be to save lives—plain and simple.”
While Virginia is leading the national fight against drunk driving, 248 people lost their lives as a result of drinking-related incidents in 2017—which was almost 30% of all traffic fatalities. Another 18,701 people were convicted of a DUI in the Commonwealth and during last year’s Labor Day weekend alone, Virginia roads saw 703 alcohol-impaired traffic injuries. Checkpoint Strikeforce is the crucial joint effort between public and private partners that works to stop these fatalities through a surround-sound persuasion campaign and high-visibility enforcement to remind likely offenders to get a safe ride home.
Partnering with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement mobilization, approximately 89 law enforcement agencies—including local and Virginia State Police—will operate 94 checkpoints and 612 saturation patrols from August 17 through September 3, 2018.
“Nearly four-out-of-ten persons killed in drunk driving crashes in the Commonwealth last year were ages 18-35. Those are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters—all gone before their time,” said Virginia State Police Colonel Gary T. Settle. “Troopers and other law enforcement professionals are on the roads everyday with the goal of protecting Virginians, and that solemn duty will be front-of-mind during the upcoming high-visibility periods.”
In coordination with local partner Lake Research, Checkpoint Strikeforce conducted a survey of Virginia drivers that are most likely to drink and drive—21- to 35-year-old males. The research showed that even though a strong majority (82%) of our target audience believe it is very important to make a plan to get home safely before you go out for the night, less than two-thirds (59%) frequently plan ahead for said safe ride home.
This research also shows that our target audience strongly agrees (81% with 94% agreeing overall) that “people who drink and drive are not acting like responsible adults.” Complementing the high visibility enforcement, Checkpoint Strikeforce is sponsoring an advertisement which will reach the target audience through a campaign called “Act Like It.” The 30-second spot debuted this week, and reminding viewers that drinking and driving is irresponsible—if you’re old enough to drink, act like it, and get a safe ride home. The new ad can be viewed here.
Checkpoint Strikeforce is part of a research-based multi-state, zero tolerance initiative designed to get impaired drivers off the roads using checkpoints and patrols along with education about the dangers and consequences of driving while intoxicated. Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign is supported by a grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to the nonprofit and Falls Church-based Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP).
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