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Back to Archives | Back to November 2004 Contents 

Highway Safety Initiatives

December Is National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month in the United States

By Patricia Cahill, Executive Director, IACP Foundation; Strategic Plan Administrator, IACP; and Advisor to the National Law Enforcement Challenge Program

“Tougher impaired driving laws, and the enforcement of those laws by tens of thousands of dedicated police officers across the country, are saving hundreds of lives nationwide,” said Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D., administrator of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

According a recent press release from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alcohol-related fatalities declined significantly in 2003; the decline was led by impaired-driving reductions in 28 states and is the first drop in the level since 1999.

A total of 17,013 alcohol-related fatalities were recorded in 2003, down by 511, or almost 3 percent, from the total of 17,524 recorded in 2002. The greatest reduction in fatalities was among those in crashes where the highest blood alcohol content (BAC) was .08 and above. The decline comes as all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have enacted laws making a BAC of .08 the legal definition of impaired driving.

Sustained, High-Visibility Enforcement

The holiday season is upon us and it’s the time of year when agencies across the United States will redouble their efforts in the areas of seat belt and impaired driving enforcement. As in past years, the mantra for the successful traffic safety program has been sustained, high-visibility enforcement.

Whether you use saturation patrols or checkpoints to combat impaired driving and enforce seat belt laws, a key concept in success is raising the motoring public’s perception of risk. It is impossible to have enough officers to address every unbuckled or impaired driver, so it is critical that we make drivers aware that they may be stopped and cited or arrested any time they break the law.

Educate, Then Enforce

Although enforcement is critical to compliance, no enforcement campaign can count itself truly successful until it has achieved measurable results; and in the case of traffic enforcement, the goal is not to write citations. Instead, the goal must be to improve driver behavior.

It is crucial that the first component of an enforcement campaign is educating the public about the laws, your enforcement efforts, and the potential consequences for failing to obey the law. This is an excellent opportunity to use both earned and paid media and to engage the community in your spreading the word: if you drink and drive, you will lose.


Several organizations and coalitions work throughout the year but particularly during the holidays to combat impaired driving deaths and injuries.

Visit NHTSA’s Web site at to get more information on enforcement dates, planning kits, educational material, and sample media releases. Also check out for additional ideas and statistics.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has spent more than 20 years working to educate the public and pass legislation regarding impaired driving. Visit the MADD Web site at .

Visit the National Commission Against Drunk Driving at for more information on their broad-based coalition efforts to reduce impaired driving and its tragic consequences.


From The Police Chief, vol. 71, no. 11, November 2004. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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