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Speeches and Presentations

Drive Sober Kickoff Event

Ann Carlson, NHTSA Acting Administrator

Tuesday, December 13, 2022 |


Good morning, and thank you so much for joining us as we kick off our holiday season impaired-driving prevention campaign.

Impaired driving is one of the leading causes of fatal crashes on our nation’s roads. It’s responsible for more than 10,000 deaths every year. 

Ten thousand lives lost. That’s so many deaths it sounds almost abstract. But those 10,000 people leave a gaping hole in their families and communities that can never be filled. Their absence will always be felt. And this holiday season, too many seats will be empty at the dinner table, and too many hearts will be broken. You will hear from one of those mothers shortly.

These crashes are particularly tragic because they are 100-percent preventable. There is no reason and no excuse to drive impaired by alcohol or other drugs.

Driving while impaired—whether by alcohol or other drugs, legal or illegal—is against the law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. I want to emphasize that even in states where marijuana laws have changed, it is still illegal to drive under the influence of the drug. 

And it’s not only illicit drugs and legal marijuana that can impair you – prescription and over-the counter medications, like cold and allergy medications, can also make you unsafe to drive.

The campaign we’re kicking off today, which runs tomorrow through the first of the new year, reminds everyone of the dangers of impaired driving – and the consequences if they choose to drive impaired by alcohol or other drugs. 

Our $13.2 million national paid media campaign includes two new TV ads that we will preview for you today. One’s in English, and the other is in Spanish, because we want to spread this lifesaving message as widely as possible. And I should add that we’re spending $2.7 million more on this year’s campaign than last winter’s.

Our campaign includes high-visibility enforcement, with officers working to keep impaired drivers off our roads. Once someone has chosen to drive drunk or high, they are a risk not only to themselves, but to everyone on the road – people in other vehicles, on motorcycles, on bikes, or on foot. That decision puts everyone in danger, so stopping impaired drivers is vital to saving lives.

NHTSA’s partnerships with law enforcement and the justice system are essential in this work. Today and every day, we thank our law enforcement officers for their dedication to protecting the traveling public from impaired drivers. And we further thank them for their partnership in prioritizing equity as a foundational element in all aspects of highway safety. 

In fact, safety and equity must go hand in hand. Preventing impaired driving does not and cannot rest on the shoulders of law enforcement alone. It will take all of us, working together, and treating one another with respect and dignity, to end the scourge of these entirely preventable crashes.

There are several effective countermeasures that states and communities can implement to help prevent impaired driving and deaths. 

States can engage a broad array of stakeholders on the prevention side, including public health and medical professionals, schools and colleges, and employers. 

Ignition interlocks are effective in preventing drunk driving, and states can work to strengthen their programs to ensure that everyone who is required to install one follows through. The agency has initiated work to meet the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s requirement for rulemaking concerning advanced impaired driving prevention technology in vehicles.

DWI courts can provide individual assessments and treatments, addressing the underlying substance abuse disorders that so often exist in impaired driving cases.

NHTSA is also working to expand our knowledge of alcohol and other drug prevalence in crashes, so we can develop effective countermeasures and education. Today, we are releasing a new study we conducted on alcohol and drug prevalence among seriously or fatally injured road users. 

This study collected blood samples across several Level-1 trauma centers and morgues from those admitted after motor vehicle crashes. While we included vehicle drivers, we also looked at motorcyclists, pedestrians, and cyclists too. 

Cannabinoids and alcohol were the most prevalent drugs found, followed by stimulants and opioids. Nearly 20 percent of the drivers tested had blood alcohol levels of .08 or more – exceeding the legal limit in every state and DC.

We are also concerned that nearly 20 percent of road users tested positive for two or more drugs, including alcohol – we call that polydrug use. The use of multiple substances at once can magnify the impairing effects of each drug.

No one needs to die this holiday season because someone chose to drive impaired. Please, make the smart choice – if you’ve been drinking or using an impairing drug, don’t get behind the wheel. Call a cab, get a rideshare, arrange for a designated driver, or spend the night at a friend’s house.

It isn’t worth the risk – because that risk could cost you everything.

And remember, whenever you see a police car, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle with flashing lights on, slow down and move over. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the law.

With that, we’ll conclude today’s news conference. Thanks again to all our speakers for their time, and thank you, our audience, for joining us today.

Thank you so much and stay safe.