By April Phillips,
Naval Safety Center Public Affairs
NORFOLK (NNS) — A nationwide crackdown on impaired driving led by the Department of Transportation is timed to reduce the number of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes during the holiday season.
The campaign, known as “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” will run through Jan. 2 and will involve thousands of law enforcement officers across the country.
Nationwide there has been a reduction in alcohol-related crashes and fatalities. This positive trend is also evident in the Navy, where alcohol-related incidents have been declining for several years.
Nonetheless, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 10,228 people were killed by drunk drivers in 2010, including 415 during the second half of December alone.
The campaign’s timing is purposeful. There are many opportunities for Sailors to over imbibe during the holiday season.
“It could be the result of family get-togethers or command parties,” said Dan Dray, a traffic safety specialist at the Naval Safety Center. “Either way, it’s important to plan for a safe ride home.”
He also said that it’s important to make that plan before taking the first sip of alcohol. The best of intentions can fall apart as alcohol impairs judgment.
“Young service members may be at increased risk for driving impaired,” Dray said. “Many are away from home for the first time and may be unaware of their personal alcohol limits.”
“We know that the young Sailors are going to go out and have fun, but the biggest asset they have in terms of safety is their peers. Everyone carries a cell phone these days, so if you’ve had too much to drink, call a friend to come pick you up or take advantage of the safe ride programs that many ships offer,” Dray said.
These safe ride programs are usually sponsored by a command’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation department. They involve “no questions asked” rides back to the ship and Dray said there is no punishment for using the service.
“The only thing is you’ll be asked to pay the taxi bill later,” he said. “It’s a lot cheaper than the fines, lawyer bills, community service, and career ramifications that come with a DUI charge.”
Drunk driving doesn’t just affect one Sailor and his or her career. The ramifications ripple through the unit and the surrounding community.
“When a shipmate is lost, it’s not just a military member,” said Bonnie Revell, also a traffic safety specialist. “That person is also a father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter.”
Revell has also talked to members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and said she’s seen the anguish in the faces of those who have lost children as a result of an intoxicated driver.
“The heartbreak is intense. Knowing they will never hear ‘I love you’ again, or that they will never have grandchildren because they lost their only child. It’s just devastating,” she said.
She said that Sailors who are pulled over for DUI during the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign are actually the lucky ones. While they may face severe personal and professional ramifications, those are mild in comparison to what could have happened – a crash killing themselves or an innocent motorist.
For more information about “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, visit www.nhtsa.gov, and for resources to combat a DUI, visit www.public.navy.mil/NAVSAFECEN.