The 2009 holiday crackdown of extra drunk driving patrols and sobriety checkpoints runs from Dec. 16 until Jan. 3, 2010.

2009 Holiday DUI Crackdown Begins

The number of Americans dying in alcohol-related fatalities is staggeringly high, despite a 7 percent improvement from 2007 to 2008 and stepped-up law enforcement patrols, especially during the holiday season.

Law enforcement agencies across the country begin the annual holiday crackdown of extra drunk driving patrols and sobriety checkpoints on Dec. 16. Backed by more than $7 million in radio and TV advertising by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Mothers Against Drunk Driving's distribution of more than 2.5 million red ribbons and window decals, the 19-day campaign wraps up Jan. 3.

The ”Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest" campaign sends a zero tolerance message by federal and state authorities at a time when the number of Americans dying in alcohol-related fatalities is declining but remains high. While DUI deaths dropped by 7 percent from 2007 to 2008, the total in 2008 was 11,773 deaths, about 32 percent of 37,261 overall traffic fatalities that year, according to the latest statistics from the Federal Highway Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

"Drunk driving is a major public safety threat that still claims thousands of lives every year," LaHood said Dec. 7. "Many states continue to step up their efforts to get drunk drivers off our roads, but the numbers tell us we have to do more."

The data show Vermont, Wisconsin, Maine, Nebraska, and Minnesota achieved the biggest declines in DUI fatalities from 2007 to 2008, with improvements of at least 23 percent each. States where DUI fatalities increased the most year over year were Idaho, Rhode Island, Wyoming, Kansas, and New Hampshire. In real terms, Texas (1,269 DUI deaths in 2008) and California (1,029 deaths) lead the nation. New Hampshire made the list because of 11 more DUI fatalities recorded there in 2008 than in 2007 (the total rose from 34 to 45 year over year), which caused the small state's fatality rate to rise by 40 percent. Three more DUI deaths (25 in 2008 vs. 22 in 2007) caused Rhode Island's rate to rise by 24 percent.

Visit this site to see a U.S. map and corresponding chart showing DUI fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2007 and 2008.

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