Thursday, December 17, 2015 | Washington, D.C.
Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
Thursday, December 17, 2015
As Prepared for Delivery
Welcome to our guests today. Inspector Stuart Emerman of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department; Captain Thomas Didone of the Montgomery County Police Department; Mothers Against Drunk Driving President Colleen Sheehey-Church and Governors Highway Safety Association Chair and Delaware Office of Highway Safety Director Jana Simpler.
Why we’re here today? Our nation is simply paying too high a price in lives destroyed by drunk driving.
We recently got a tragic reminder of that price in the death of Montgomerty County Police Officer Noah Leotta.
Officer Leotta was working a DUI detail and had a suspected impaired driver stopped, when he was struck and killed by another drunk driver with 2 previous DUI convictions. Officer Leotta was one of the many men and women who are the heart and soul of our efforts to prevent drunk driving on our roads. We can’t afford to lose another brave officer to drunk driving.
We thank all of the law enforcement officers who are doing the hard and sometimes dangerous work of keeping us safe on the roads.
Drunk driving remains a tragic problem that kills, injures, and causes untold heartache for families that lose loved ones and those who are severely injured in crashes.
In the time it takes to watch a movie at a theater like this one, roughly two hours, two more people will be killed in a drunk driving crash.
In 2014, 9,967 people died in drunk driving crashes. We lost 27 people each day. Just because someone made the selfish choice to drink and drive.
That’s why we’ve again partnered with law enforcement for our Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Winter Holiday Crackdown on Drunk Drivers.
More than 10,000 law enforcement agencies will be out on the streets looking for drunk drivers. And, make no mistake, if you’re caught driving drunk you will be arrested and prosecuted.
This year’s high visibility enforcement campaign kicked off this week and runs through New Year’s Day.
This year, we’re unveiling a new and powerful advertisement to drive home the dangers of drunk driving and why you can’t trust your own judgement about driving once you’ve been drinking.
It’s called the Man in the Mirror. It will play immediately before showings of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” at this Regal Theater and at Regal Theaters across the country, as well as on television and digital outlets.
Given the level of interest in the new film we know that millions will see and hear this important and lifesaving safety message. Thank you to Regal Theaters for partnering with us on today’s event.
I think we all remember the iconic scene in the original Star Wars of Obi-Wan Kenobi using a Jedi mind trick to fool the Stormtroopers. We all recall him waving his hand and saying, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
Regrettably, we can’t use the same trick on people who might drink and drive. As we all know, alcohol impairs judgement. That’s why it’s vital to plan ahead to stay safe.
If you can organize a holiday night out, or put together an outfit for an ugly sweater party, then you can plan for a safe way home after you’ve been drinking.
- Use a designated driver.
- Call a taxi, a car service, or use public transit.
- Use the SaferRide app for Apple and Android devices.
- Use your community’s Safe Ride program.
- But, never, ever get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking.
As our ad makes clear, alcohol impairs judgement. That voice in your head will be telling you you’re okay to drive. You’re not. Even if you don’t harm yourself or others, our friends in law enforcement will find you. You’ll be arrested and prosecuted. So, remember: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.
Our education and enforcement efforts have made a real difference in the fight against drunk driving.
According to the data we released today, drunk driving deaths were down 1.1 percent in 2014. Over the past decade, we’ve seen a 27 percent decline in deaths.
When we pass tough laws against drunk driving, when those laws are enforced by the brave men and women of law enforcement, and when we engage the public in a conversation regarding the destructive choice of drunk driving, we save lives.
Now I’d like to welcome to the podium someone who has dedicated his career to protecting the people of our capital city, Metropolitan Police Department Inspector Stuart Emerman.
[Stuart Emerman speaks]
Thank you, Inspector Emerman. Our friends in law enforcement are often the face of our drunk driving crackdowns but our success in these efforts is also by many other safety partners, particularly Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. So I’m pleased to welcome MADD Chair Colleen Sheehey-Church to the podium to share her thoughts.
[Colleen Sheehey-Church speaks]
Thank you, Colleen. At the center of NHTSA’s work to help Americans drive, ride, and walk safely is our partnership with the states and their highway safety offices. So I’m pleased we could be joined by the Chair of the Governor’s Highway Safety Association and the Director of the Delaware Office of Highway Safety, Jana Simpler.
[Jana Simpler speaks]
Thank you, Jana. We want to close with someone who brings an outstanding record of promoting safety on our roads, a record born out of a powerful, personal commitment to highway safety based on painful experience, and someone who can share with us Officer Leotta’s story, Montgomery County Police Captain Thomas Didone.
[Thomas Didone speaks]
Captain Didone, thank you for all you do. All of us at NHTSA grieve with Officer Leotta’s family and his colleagues.
I want to thank all of our guests again for taking the time to be with us for today’s kickoff. And now we’ll be happy to field any questions you may have.