Drive sober or get pulled over this holiday season

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WASHINGTON (WFXR) — Drivers can expect to see more law enforcement officers on the road starting Friday and lasting through New Year’s Day as part of an effort reminding Americans not to drive impaired, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

At a virtual event on Tuesday, Dec. 15, the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched its annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” high-visibility enforcement campaign.

“There is no excuse for impaired driving and millions of reasons not to — some of whom may be passengers in your own car,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said.

According to a statement released Tuesday morning, in 2019, alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities decreased by 5.3 percent, reaching the lowest rate since 1982 when NHTSA started reporting this data.

RELATED: 10 dead after 8 Thanksgiving weekend crashes around Virginia, including in Lynchburg and Pittsylvania County

However, officials say that progress is in jeopardy because of changing driving patterns and behaviors amid the national public health emergency and stay-at-home orders.

Meanwhile, the drivers who remained on the roads throughout the pandemic have, on average, engaged in more risky behavior, according to a report issued in October by the NHTSA.

“Impaired driving is 100 percent preventable, and law enforcement officers will be stopping impaired drivers to protect everyone on the road,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens said. 

RELATED: Virginia DMV sees spike in unbelted fatalities, speed-related crashes in 2020 

During the holiday period between Christmas and New Year’s Day in 2019, officials say 210 lives were lost in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes.  

“Driving impaired by any substance—alcohol or drugs, whether legal or illegal—is against the law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Even in states where marijuana laws have changed, it is still illegal to drive under the influence of the drug,” the U.S. Department of Transportation said. “Prescription and over-the-counter medications can also impair one’s ability to drive safely, and driving under their influence is illegal.”

According to Tuesday’s statement, this winter’s impaired driving high-visibility enforcement will be supported by a $9.5 million national advertising campaign that will run from Wednesday, Dec. 16, through New Year’s Day.

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