hat's the theme for this year's national law enforcement crackdown to make our streets and highways safer over this holiday period. It's time to join other agencies in your state to take advantage of the national push to get the impaired driver off the road.
National TV and Radio Spots Bolster Local Efforts
The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed a comprehensive campaign to put drivers on notice that if they drive while impaired they will be arrested. Your sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols, and routine enforcement activities will be boosted by national news stories and paid advertising to help deter those who may choose to drink and drive.
Whether you're watching Jay Leno, NASCAR, or America's Funniest Home Videos, chances are you will see an impaired-driving advertisement on television. Radio listeners won't miss the message, either, with spots scheduled to run during programs as varied as John Boy and Billy, The Dan Patrick Show, and Univision Radio's El Garaje. NHTSA plans to spend $11 million to get the word out.
Local Enforcers Can Use Ready-Made Media Materials
Fill-in-the-blank media materials that you can localize for your jurisdiction are readily available for your use at (www.stopimpaireddriving.org). You will find news releases that you can easily adapt with your department's name. Also available is an op-ed piece that discusses the crackdown and the intended effect of safer streets and highways. There are also fact sheets on the Web site that you can use to develop a speech for local civic clubs or other community group presentations.
Chiefs: Help Keep Your Officers and Families Safe
Impaired driving is one of the most frequently committed crimes in the United States and one of the deadliest. In the United States, more than 15,000 people died in crashes in 2004 in which a driver or motorcycle operator had a positive blood alcohol level. Of those, nearly 13,000 fatalities occurred in crashes where the driver's BAC was .08 or higher. The toll is too high and the crime is too preventable not to take action.
Professionally, we deal with crashes on a daily basis and see the traumatic injuries that result. But we seldom see the long-term effects of those injuries. We don't see the weeks and sometimes years spent in rehabilitation trying to relearn the use of a limb. We don't live with the effect of an injury that is permanently disfiguring. When we don't make a real and concerted effort to prevent impaired driving and arrest those who choose to drink and drive, we are putting at risk two groups of highway users that are very important to us: our families and our officers.
Is Your Department Doing All It Can?
If your department could do more to keep impaired drivers off the road, consider taking the following steps to make your community's roadways safer.
Train and motivate your officers. Help your officers understand the role of alcohol involvement in traffic crashes. Make clear that you find the death and injury toll caused by impaired drivers unacceptable. Explain law enforcement's role in preventing those tragedies.
Emphasize enforcement. Stress the importance in your department of the enforcement of impaired driving offenses and the desired result of that enforcement: more impaired drivers detected and arrested. You can express that emphasis with a new round of training on standardized field sobriety tests, a period of focused enforcement activity, or the formation of a special unit. Above all, communicate your intolerance of impaired driving in word and deed.
Publicize the risk of driving while impaired.
Deterring impaired driving crashes requires that those who consider getting behind the wheel after drinking perceive a high risk of being detected, arrested, and prosecuted. Increasing the public's perception of risk involves high-visibility enforcement accompanied by effective public information and education.
In a report released earlier this year, Dr. Jack Stuster of Anacapa Sciences explains that a media campaign that publicizes high levels of enforcement "generates the public perception that the risks of detection and arrest have been elevated. If the perceived risk becomes sufficiently high, individuals will choose to refrain from driving motor vehicles after drinking alcohol, according to the general deterrence model."1
Participate in Nationwide Holiday Crackdowns.
Your participation in the Labor Day crackdown and in each of the future special enforcement periods is vital to reducing impaired driving. Much of the publicity will be done for you, and the message will be clear: there are no exceptions, no excuses.
But without highly visible enforcement activity in your community, that message will have limited impact. We have an opportunity to save lives and prevent drunk-driving crashes. For the sake of our families and our officers, please do your part. ■