The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Launches a Widespread Campaign to Raise Awareness of the Risks and Penalties of Drunk Driving

In an effort to reduce arrests, accidents, and deaths resulting from drunk driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has initiated a massive nationwide publicity campaign. The campaign will include the participation of law enforcement agencies all over the country, as well as an $11 million advertising effort warning viewers of the dangers of driving under the influence.

This newest campaign by the NHTSA marks a change in focus from seatbelts to drunk driving. The new advertisements, which are paid and will air in both English and Spanish, mark the largest paid advertising campaign in the agency's history. Men aged 21 to 35 years old are targeted in the television, radio, and online ads, as this is statistically the most likely demographic to become involved in fatal drunk driving accidents.

In television commercials, men stopped by police are depicted driving cars brimming over with beer, wine and liquor. The ads focus on the negative consequences of a DUI arrest, which can result in criminal charges and penalties that can dramatically impact your personal and professional life.

While drunk driving deaths are down from last year, the rate of decline experienced in the 1980s and 1990s has slowed considerably. Last year, about 20 percent of car accident fatalities on the highway involved at least one driver whose blood alcohol levels were over the legal limit. 16,885 people died last year as a result of alcohol-related car accidents, down about 0.02 percent from the year before.

The NHSA is taking a strong, straightforward approach to DUI and drunk driving awareness. "Our message is simple and strong," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Maria Cino. "If you're caught drunk driving, you'll be arrested. This is a serious business."

Increased DUI enforcement will accompany the ad campaign and will continue through Labor Day. Both federal and state enforcement agencies are increasing the number of patrols, undercover officers, and sobriety checkpoints in order to curb drunk driving through the end of the summer.

The NHTSA will encourage not just law enforcement, but high-visibility law enforcement. According to the organization, when the perceived risks of a DUI arrest rise, so will the likelihood that an individual will choose not to drink and drive.

With the current campaign, officials will attempt to combine this increased media awareness of the risks with stricter and more widespread DUI enforcement to create a magnified deterrent effect. The NHTSA cites the success of the Click It or Ticket seat belt campaign to show that awareness efforts can be successful in the general public.

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