The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration kicked off its annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign on Dec. 14 and also announced funding for technology designed to prevent drunk driving.
“Each year, too many lives are lost to drunk driving, particularly around the holiday season,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Now we have an opportunity to prevent future drunk driving tragedies by taking action today.”
In 2015, 10,265 people died in drunk driving crashes, according to NHTSA. The drivers involved in 67% of those crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher (nearly twice the legal limit of .08). During the 2015 Christmas holiday period (from 6 p.m. on Dec. 24 to 5:59 a.m. on Dec. 28), the nation lost 34 lives per day in drunk driving crashes — a total of 120 deaths over 3.5 days.
During the New Year’s holiday period (from 6 p.m. on Dec. 31 to 5:59 a.m. on Jan. 5), the nation lost 31 lives per day in drunk driving crashes — a total of 139 deaths over 4.5 days. These two holidays combined accounted for 259 lives lost in drunk driving crashes, NHTSA statistics show.
The “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign is intended to reverse this trend. Through Jan. 1, campaign advertisements will appear nationwide and law enforcement agencies across the country will be on patrol to protect the public from drunk drivers.
As part of this year’s campaign, NHTSA added a virtual experience called Last Call 360, which the public can participate in using a mobile phone or computer. The game creates a virtual bar scene through an interactive 360-degree video website that uses photospheres, cinemagraphs, and videos. Visitors can interact with virtual bar patrons, play games, watch videos, order virtual alcoholic drinks and, most importantly, discover the consequences of drinking and driving.
“Drunk driving crashes are no accident — they are 100% preventable. They all connect back to human choices and errors, but we’re not stopping there,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “With the help of our safety partners, we’re looking at a technological path forward to create a world where there is no more drunk driving.”
Federal and Virginia state officials announced $5.1 million in funding to help further develop and deploy Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) — technology that could eliminate drunk driving, NHTSA said. The DADSS-focused public-private partnership between the government and leading automakers continues to develop safety technology to help passively detect drivers' BAC and prevent drivers from starting a vehicle if they are at or above the .08 legal BAC limit in all 50 states.