(Video: Courtesy Sabrina Wood, GMMB)

RICHMOND, Va. (WFXR) — Virginia’s public education campaign and enforcement effort is underway as Gov. Ralph Northam joins other officials and law enforcement officers to deter drunk driving during the holiday season.

According to a statement released by Northam’s office on Tuesday, Dec. 21, the “Checkpoint Strikeforce” campaign combines law enforcement with research-based messaging to remind Virginians to make responsible decisions when drinking.  

“Keep your family, your community, and yourself safe by not drinking and driving this holiday season,” said Northam. “You can always designate a sober driver, call a taxi, or use public transportation and rideshare services. We owe our thanks to law enforcement professionals for keeping people safe this holiday season. Together, we can reduce impaired driving and save lives.”

In 2020, officials say 272 people died in alcohol-related crashes in Virginia.

“The holidays traditionally pose an increased risk for fatalities involving alcohol-impaired driving,” said Richard D. Holcomb, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “Our goal is to ensure each and every Virginian gets home safely to their families this holiday season. Between Thanksgiving 2020 and New Year’s Day 2021 alone, 14 Virginians lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes. Our message is simple: as you celebrate with loved ones this holiday season, don’t put lives at risk by getting behind the wheel after drinking.” 

Since Checkpoint Strikeforce’s inaugural campaign in 2001, alcohol-related crashes have decreased 41.2 percent, fatalities have decreased by 24 percent, and injuries have decreased by 50 percent, according to the governor’s office

Virginia State Police are set to work through the holidays as part of Operation Crash Awareness Reduction Effort (CARE), a state-sponsored traffic safety program that aims to reduce traffic crashes, fatalities, and injuries caused by impaired driving, speeding, and failing to use seatbelts. 

Officials say 116 Virginia law enforcement agencies will participate in the holiday wave of the Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign from Dec. 15 through New Year’s Day, increasing their presence in high-risk areas and establishing 55 sobriety checkpoints across the Commonwealth.

Checkpoint Strikeforce is also running a surround-sound ad campaign called “Act Like It,” which reminds viewers that drinking and driving is irresponsible, Northam’s office says. The main point of the ad is that if you are old enough to drink, you should act like it and get a safe ride home.

Follow these links to review alternative transportation options or to watch the 30-second “Act Like It” ad.