Virginia officers to crack down on drunk driving during holiday season: 'It could be a life-saving move'

Two Congressional bills - the HALT Act in the House and the RIDE Act in the Senate - are looking into what technology might be installed in vehicles to prevent drunk driving. The bills in Congress seek to create federal rules, so that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) could begin that process.
Posted at 3:35 PM, Dec 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-26 18:27:35-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Law enforcement is cracking down on drunk driving this holiday season and is planning to host hundreds of patrols in an effort to get intoxicated drivers off Virginia's roadways.

120 different law enforcement agencies will be conducting more than 500 "saturation patrols" and 95 sobriety checkpoints across the Commonwealth, as part of the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign.

In the greater Richmond area, 17 different law enforcement agencies will conduct over 100 patrols and nearly a dozen sobriety checkpoints between now and the New Year.

Kurt Erickson with Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) said the goal is to spot drunk drivers on Virginia's roads before someone gets hurt.

"About 39% all traffic deaths involve drunk drivers over Christmas, and at the national level, 49%, so virtually half of all traffic fatalities on New Year's involve drunk drivers," Erickson said.

In 2021, alcohol-related crashes between Thanksgiving and New Year's left 445 Virginians injured and 13 dead.

According to data from the Department of Motor Vehicles, between Thanksgiving and December 26, there were 321 total reported alcohol-related crashes, with 11 fatalities and 33 serious injuries.

"According to the national highway traffic safety administration, a third of drunk driving victims are non-intoxicated drivers, non-intoxicated passengers, non-intoxicated pedestrians," Erickson said.

In the greater Richmond area, drunk driving fatalities have decreased in almost every neighboring county, except one.

"If you look in the Richmond area, drunk driving fatalities went down in Richmond, they went down in Chesterfield, they went down in Hanover. But if you look in Henrico County, drunk driving fatalities nearly tripled last year. They went up 175%. So did drunk driving crashes, they went up 5% and drunk driving injuries went up over 13%."

Erickson said while drunk fatalities have decreased overall, the number of drunk driving crashes, injuries, and arrests have increased, following national trends.

"Anybody that's looking to wave the flag that we won the fight against drunk driving, these numbers were really telling you otherwise," he said.

Erickson said you can call #77 to report any suspicious driving behavior to authorities anonymously.

"There's a cynicism thinking how, you know, how quickly could police get here? Is my call going to make a difference? In Northern Virginia, on the George Washington Parkway which is patrolled by U.S. Park Police, there were a number of reports of a suspected drunk driver. Only to interview to have somebody be at four times the legal limit that was behind the wheel of a car that they were able to apprehend and arrest," Erickson said. "So yeah, it could be an actual life-saving move."



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