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How police across Central Virginia are targeting drunk drivers on New Year’s Eve

Erickson: 'Plan your exit strategy, not as the night progresses, but before you actually go out'
Mothers Against Drunk Driving said placing passive drunk driving prevention technology into vehicles could potentially save 10,000 lives a year.
Posted at 6:16 PM, Dec 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-31 23:23:28-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- With hours to go until the New Year, public safety officials encourage Virginians to make a plan before the head out to celebrate so they do not drink and drive.

To help catch those that fail to do so, 116 law enforcement agencies in the Commonwealth involved in Checkpoint Strikeforce have been out trying to take drunk drivers off the road for the past two weeks.

"By conducting 55 sobriety checkpoints," said Kurt Erickson with the program. "And nearly 500 saturation patrols. Saturation patrols are police deployments that are doing nothing but looking for impaired drivers."

Erickson said agencies, including 15 around the Richmond area, will be out on New Year's Eve into day as well.

"I think your odds are running up on a law enforcement deployment that's out there doing nothing but looking for impaired drivers is going to be great," added Erickson.

He said what they are asking people to do is -- as their "Act Like It" commercial stresses -- if you are old enough to drive, act like it.

"Plan your exit strategy, not as the night progresses, but before you actually go out," said Erickson. "Whether that's designating a sober driver or using a taxicab or using rideshare or spending the night or using public transportation. Do whatever it takes to prevent you from getting behind the wheel of a car if you've been drinking."

In a news release, Governor Ralph Northam added his voice to that call.

“Keep your family, your community, and yourself safe by not drinking and driving this holiday season,” said Governor 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.”

Northam noted that in the 20 years of the program "alcohol-related crashes have decreased 41.2 percent, fatalities have decreased by 24 percent, and injuries have decreased by half." But, there were 272 alcohol-related deaths in 2020, an increase from the 264 in 2019.

"When you still have the number of annual convictions that are happening in the state or when you have the uptick of traffic fatalities -- or for that matter, in 2020, where you had a traffic fatality involving a drunk driver occur on average every 32 hours in the Commonwealth -- there's still a lot more work to be done," added Erickson.