Holiday Crackdown Targets Drunk Drivers—And Breathalyzer Refusers

December 13, 2010


As part of an annual "Drunk Driving: Over The Limit, Under Arrest" winter holiday crackdown, hundreds of law-enforcement agencies across the country will put in extra hours over the next several weeks.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has used the occasion to also highlight and advocate a "No Refusal" strategy, which results in more guilty pleas, fewer trials, and more convictions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Why? Because a significant percentage of those pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence refuse a breathalyzer test—which can present some significant hurdles in some places during weekends and holidays. In many cases, it buys the driver enough time to dodge charges, dodge the law, and be back behind the wheel again, perhaps again under the influence.

In New Hampshire, for instance, a shocking 81 percent of those pulled over for suspected drunk driving refuse the breathalyzer, while around 40 percent do in Massachusetts, Florida, Louisiana, and Ohio.

The key point to new "No Refusal" strategy: making sure judges are on call to rapidly go through the warrant process, blood tests are ready to be administered and witnessed for suspected drunk drivers who refuse the breathalyzer.

In 2009, there were 10,839 fatalities from crashes involving a driver with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher, according to NHTSA. That's 32 percent of all fatalities for the year, and an alcohol-impairment-related driving fatality occurs once every 48 minutes, based on 2009 data.

In recent years, while the number of fatal crashes has fallen overall, the actual rate of accidents involving drunk drivers has risen slightly, with the most significant rises in those age 21 to 34 and 45 to 54. And as a group, those age 21 to 24 had the highest percentage of drivers in fatal crashes with levels of 0.08 percent of higher.

At a time of year when holiday parties and stressful family interactions can place us in situations where a drink might hit the spot, make sure you're not driving. And remember, if there's any doubt about a friend or family member, see them into a taxi.



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