Virginia Launches 20th Annual Checkpoint Strikeforce DUI Enforcement and Public Education Campaign
New data shows that ninety percent of men in Virginia ages 21-35 have driven after having a few drinks or been driven by someone who had a few drinks in the last year.
Richmond, Va. – Today marks the launch of Virginia’s 20th annual Checkpoint Strikeforce DUI enforcement and public education campaign. The enforcement aspect of the two-decade old traffic safety campaign will take place from August 20 through Labor Day weekend and resume throughout the 2021 winter holiday season.
“It is great news that restaurants are open again and everyone is eager to celebrate, but let’s all remember to do so safely and take care of each other,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “The tireless efforts of Checkpoint Strikeforce over the past 20 years have been critical in reminding Virginians of the importance of getting a safe ride after drinking. This year, as they have for the last two decades, Checkpoint Strikeforce will help keep drunk drivers off the road and save the lives of countless Virginians.”
The campaign launch is supported by new research from local partner Lake Research Partners who this month conducted a survey of Virginia drivers that are most likely to drive after drinking: 21 to 35-year-old males. The research showed that in the last year, 90% of men surveyed admitted to having driven after having a few drinks or being driven by someone who had a few drinks, despite 93% of young men indicating that they believe it is important to make a plan to get home safely after a night of drinking. Of the men surveyed, 61% expect to need a safe ride after drinking more or the same amount this year in comparison to before the pandemic, showing the desire to go out to drink as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
“As a trauma surgeon, I’ve seen first-hand the destruction that impaired driving causes for families and communities,” said Michel B. Aboutanos, M.D., who serves as medical director of VCU Medical Center’s Level I Trauma Center, and VCU’s Injury & Violence Prevention Program. “Drunk driving-related injuries can be devastating for not just the driver but innocent people on the roadways. Treating injuries begins by preventing them from happening in the first place and we need everyone in the community to play a role in preventing impaired driving.”
Last year in Virginia, nearly a third (32%) of all Virginia traffic fatalities involved alcohol-related crashes. In addition, 14,105 people were convicted of a DUI in the Commonwealth in 2020. During last year’s Labor Day weekend alone, Virginia State troopers arrested 55 drunk drivers, averaging a DUI arrest every 104 minutes. Checkpoint Strikeforce is a crucial joint effort between public and private partners that works to stop these fatalities through surround-sound persuasion campaigning and high-visibility enforcement that reminds likely offenders to get a safe ride after drinking or face arrest. The public safety messages of the Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign and healthcare partners, along with enforcement play a critical role in helping keep impaired drivers off the road. The message to Virginians is simple. If you’re old enough to drink, act like it.
“The nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program is proud to partner with Virginia for the 20th annual Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign—marking two decades of saving the lives of Virginians from alcohol-related driving fatalities,” said Kurt Erickson, President and CEO of the Virginia-based Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP). “Since Checkpoint Strikeforce’s inaugural campaign in 2001, alcohol-related crashes have decreased 41.2%, fatalities have decreased by 24%, and injuries have been halved.”
Virginia State Police personnel will work through the holiday as part of Operation CARE – the Crash Awareness Reduction Effort. CARE is a nationwide, state-sponsored traffic safety program that aims to reduce traffic crashes, fatalities and injuries caused by impaired driving, speeding, and failing to use occupant restraints. Virginia State Police’s participation in the program will begin Friday, September 3, 2021, at 12:01 a.m., and continue through midnight Monday, Sept. 6, 2021.
In addition, 128 Virginia law enforcement agencies will participate in the first wave of Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign from August 20 through Labor Day. Law enforcement officers will conduct 559 individual saturation patrols and 74 sobriety checkpoints across the Commonwealth.
Complementing the enforcement, Checkpoint Strikeforce is continuing its advertising campaign called “Act Like It.” The 30-second ad is an updated version of the spot which debuted in 2018. To address the changing environment in 2021 with COVID-19 restrictions lifted and restaurants open, the traffic safety campaign’s “man-baby” character returns to the bar, considering dangerous choices after drinking. The spot was built on public opinion research that shows the campaign’s primary audience strongly agrees (81% with 94% agreeing overall) that “people who drink and drive are not acting like responsible adults.” The advertisements remind viewers that drinking and driving is irresponsible—if you’re old enough to drink, act like it. Don’t risk a DUI. The latest ad can be viewed here: http://actlikeit.org/.
Checkpoint Strikeforce is part of a research-based multi-state, zero tolerance initiative designed to get impaired drivers off the roads using sobriety checkpoints and patrols along with education about the dangers and consequences of driving while impaired. Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign is supported by a grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to the nonprofit and Virginia-based Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP).