ABC News’ Sarah Burke reports:
Drunk driving-related fatalities were down 4.9 percent in 2010 nationwide, with 531 fewer deaths than the year before, according to new figures released today by the Department of Transportation.
Individually, however, the figures are not all positive. While the District of Columbia, for instance, slashed its number of drunk-driving fatalities by 55 percent, there was a 14 percent increase in fatalities last year in New York. New Hampshire saw a 52 percent increase in that same time frame.
Just in time for the holiday season and the spike in drunk driving that typically comes with it, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today a new PSA campaign called “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over ” and a coordinated effort with local law enforcement to crack down on offenders. Despite the improving numbers, LaHood says he remains focused.
“Our work is not done,” LaHood said. “We can do better and we must do better. We are not going to rest.”
LaHood pledged to continue pursuing three key strategies to bring the number of alcohol-related road deaths down even further: tough laws, consistent enforcement and continued public education.
There was no mention at today’s event of former FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, who resigned Dec. 6 after his arrest for allegedly driving while intoxicated in Fairfax County, Va. LaHood has previously described himself as “very disappointed” at discovering the news of Babbitt’s arrest from a Fairfax county news release.
Also present at today’s news conference was Jan Withers, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which works to increase public awareness of the risks and costs of driving under the influence. Withers joined MADD in 1992 after the death of her 15-year-old daughter, Alisa, at the hands of a drunk driver.
“I always thought it would happen to someone else,” Withers said. “It was not an accident. Someone made a choice – a tragic choice – to drive drunk.”
“The last time I saw Alisa – the last time I kissed her – she was unconscious on a gurney.”
“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is a $7 million television, radio and Internet advertisement campaign warning Americans of the dangers of driving under the influence, and warning them of the consequences of getting caught. The campaign will run from Dec. 16 through Jan. 2. The ads feature invisible cops apprehending drunk drivers before they get in the car, and catching them moments later at sobriety checkpoints on their road home. Their message: If you drive drunk, they’ll catch you.