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GHSA News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 19, 2009

Contact: Jonathan Adkins or Barbara Harsha
(202)789-0942, ext.13 or 12
(202)669-9746, cell

States Increase Efforts to Combat Drunk Driving

Women Becoming a Larger Part of the Problem

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Drunk driving remains one of America's deadliest crimes. And the last few weeks of summer vacation are a time of increased road travel and drunk driving fatalities and injuries. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, August and September are among the most deadly periods on the roadways. The nation has made dramatic progress in reducing drunk driving deaths, but there were still more than 11,000 alcohol-impaired deaths in 2008--deaths that were completely preventable.

This is why GHSA's member State Highway Safety Offices are joining forces with law enforcement officers across the country to take part in the national "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest." crackdown on impaired driving during the Labor Day holiday period. The crackdown, which runs from August 21 through September 7, includes sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols, as well as a $13 million national media campaign supplemented by state-funded advertising.

This year, increased awareness is focused on women, who represent a growing percentage of drunk drivers. According to FBI figures that cover about 56 percent of country, the number of women arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs was 28.8 percent higher in 2007 than it was in 1998, while the number of men arrested declined 7.5 percent. Additionally, a new study from the Washington University School of Medicine reports a 40 percent increase in binge drinking among women ages 21 to 23 from 1979 to 2006.

State data also demonstrate this trend. In California, women accounted for nearly 19 percent of all DUI arrests in 2007, compared with 14 percent in 1998. Minnesota also saw a 5 percent increase in female DUI arrests during this period. Other states including Vermont, Missouri, New Jersey and New Mexico report similar trends. States are beginning to address this trend in their media messaging. New Mexico recently conducted a campaign entitled "Women Drive Drunk, Too."

Barbara Harsha, Executive Director of GHSA, expects more states to focus on anti-DUI efforts toward women. Harsha says, "Women are driving more like men and, unfortunately, have picked up some of their dangerous habits. While males continue to represent the large majority of DUI arrests, it is alarming that women's rates have increased so significantly."

While the crackdown's enforcement and education components are helping to curb the number of drunk drivers on the road, progress is also being made on the legislative and technological fronts. An increasing number of states now require all convicted DUI offenders have an alcohol ignition interlock installed on their vehicle. This device measures a driver's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) through a breath test before the car is allowed to start. Just this year, three more states have enacted this law, bringing the total number of states with such rules to 11.

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A list of state-specific crackdown efforts is available on GHSA's website.

For a current list of drunk driving laws, visit:
www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/impaired_laws.html

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)® is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy and enhance program management. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit www.ghsa.org.