Submitted By Alena Yarmosky, Office of the Governor
Governor Ralph Northam recently kicked off the Commonwealth’s 20th annual Checkpoint Strikeforce DUI enforcement and public education campaign. The enforcement aspect of the 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.”
Last year in Virginia, nearly a third (32 percent) of all traffic fatalities in Virginia were due to alcohol-related crashes. 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 Virginians to get a safe ride after drinking or face arrest.
Virginia State Police will work through Labor Day as part of Operation CARE, or Crash Awareness Reduction Effort. Operation 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 will participate in this program starting on Friday, September 3, 2021, at 12:01 a.m., and continue through midnight on Monday, Sept. 6, 2021.
“As a trauma surgeon, I’ve seen first-hand the destruction that impaired driving causes for families and communities,” said medical director of VCU Medical Center’s Level I Trauma Center and VCU’s Injury and Violence Prevention Program Michel B. Aboutanos, M.D. “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.”
“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 President and CEO of the Virginia-based Washington Regional Alcohol Program Kurt Erickson. “Since Checkpoint Strikeforce’s inaugural campaign in 2001, alcohol-related crashes have decreased 41.2 percent, fatalities have decreased by 24 percent, and injuries have been halved.”
The campaign launch is supported by new research from local partner Lake Research Partners who conducted a survey that found 21 to 35-year-old males are most likely to drive after drinking. The research also showed that in the last year, 90 percent of men surveyed admitted to having driven after having a few drinks or being driven by someone who had a few drinks. However, 93 percent of young men indicated that they believe it is important to make a plan to get home safely after a night of drinking. Of the men surveyed, 61 percent expect to need a safe ride after drinking.
128 Virginia law enforcement agencies will participate in the first wave of Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign. Law enforcement officers will conduct 559 individual saturation patrols and 74 sobriety checkpoints across the Commonwealth.