The holiday season brings the deadliest drunken drivers to our nation's highways.
If the trend continues, nearly half of the fatal crashes that happen during the Christmas and New Year's holidays will involve at least one impaired driver. "Impaired" means anyone with a blood alcohol level above 0.08. Throughout the rest of the year, only 30 percent of highway fatalities include impaired drivers.
In an effort to make our roads safer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, did some investigating and found that young men between the ages of 18 and 34 were responsible for the vast majority of drunk-driving accidents. But when asked, these young men made a distinction between being drunk and being buzzed.
"Everyone understands dancing-with-a-lampshade drunk and says they would never drive like that. But they do drive with a buzz on because they don't believe they are impaired," said Robin Mayer of the NHTSA.
These men defined "buzzed" as having a couple of beers, but when pressed, "a couple of beers" was more like "eight to 10 beers."
To target this group of male drivers, the NHTSA launched a new ad campaign today. It's a companion to the effective "Friends don't let friends drive drunk" campaign.
Although that campaign focuses on the passengers, the new "Buzzed" campaign focuses on the drivers. It uses humorous public-service announcements, which will air on television, to talk about a serious subject.
One shows an extremely drunk young man joining a wedding band for a drum solo, adding the line "It's easy to tell when you've had way too many." It cuts to a young man laughing at the drunken drummer as he downs a drink himself and grabs his car keys. The tag line "But what if you've had just one too many? Buzzed driving IS drunk driving."
The NHTSA said these kinds of campaigns work and points to the 20-year-old "Friends don't let friends drive drunk" campaign, which the highway administration said changed the social norm. As a result, people no longer are embarrassed or afraid to take away the car keys of a friend or family member. Many groups even appoint designated drivers.
Drunk-driving fatalities have continued to drop for a number of reasons, including education and ad-awareness campaigns. The "Buzzed" campaign will not replace "Friends don't let friends drive drunk." But it will expand the message to show driving with a "buzz on" IS just as dangerous as driving drunk.