Dover, DE – Are you one of the 93-thousand Delawareans predicted by AAA to hit the roads this Thanksgiving? If so, please buckle up, slow down and use a designated driver because Delaware law enforcement will be on high alert and on the roads to make sure you arrive safely to your destination. Four sobriety checkpoints and dozens of DUI, speed and seat belt patrols are scheduled for this coming weekend, as the Delaware Office of Highway Safety kicks off its 11th annual Safe Family Holiday Campaign.
The Safe Family Holiday Campaign, which runs from Thanksgiving Eve to New Year’s Day, is OHS’ major traffic safety initiative for the holiday season. It includes a combination of high visibility enforcement, public awareness activities, and media messaging aimed at stopping impaired and other dangerous drivers.
Enforcement activities begin the night before Thanksgiving, one of the biggest drinking holidays of the year, with an eight hour sobriety checkpoint conducted by the New Castle County DUI Task Force. Over the next six weeks, 30 law enforcement agencies statewide will conduct a total of 21 sobriety checkpoints, and 359 DUI saturation patrols. Last year during the Safe Family Holiday Campaign, officers arrested 163 individuals for Driving Under the Influence of alcohol/drugs.
Currently, alcohol-related fatalities are almost half of what they were at this time last year. Twenty-five percent of this year’s 111 traffic deaths have involved alcohol compared to 44% of them at this time last year. But highway safety officials say that’s no reason to cut back on DUI enforcement levels.
“During the holidays alcohol-related crashes tend to increase, so we’ll continue to conduct high visibility enforcement in combination with frequent public safety messages, a formula shown to change behavior and save lives,” says Tricia Roberts, Director of the Office of Highway Safety.
But Roberts knows it’s not just alcohol that is killing and injuring First State citizens. “We are also urging motorists to please give their full attention to the task of driving starting immediately. With increased traffic on the roads, everyone is already more distracted, so motorists need to make a conscious effort to minimize other distractions in the vehicle such as the use of electronic devices.”
Since January 1st of this year, 111 people have lost their lives in Delaware traffic crashes, which is a slight decrease compared to this time last year when 114 people had been killed. As mentioned, alcohol-related traffic deaths are currently down yet sadly, so far this year, 28 (25%) of people killed have died in impaired driving crashes, compared to 50 (or 44%) of those killed at this time last year. Fifteen percent of fatal crashes so far this year have involved speed, a significant decrease since the summer. However, at 58%, the percentage of unbelted drivers and passengers killed in crashes is higher than at this time last year.
Delaware’s law enforcement and corporate communities will stay informed about the status of holiday highway safety activities through weekly bulletins distributed by OHS. Additionally, billboards, radio, internet and T.V. messages will complement enforcement activities and raise the public’s awareness about the penalties for DUI.
Over the last decade, several public awareness activities have become Safe Family Holiday traditions…including the OHS “Mocktail” party. “Mocktails” are non-alcholic cocktail parties, where safety information, responsible party hosting tips, and samples of “smart” party foods will be provided. Eight mocktail events are currently scheduled at locations statewide including hospitals, BJ’s Wholesale Club in Millsboro, and select businesses.
Another popular SFH Campaign tradition is the DUI Victim’s Trees project. There is one DUI Victim’s Tree in all four DMV locations statewide. The DUI Victim’s Tree memorializes alcohol-related deaths and injuries during the campaign period by placing colored light bulbs on the tree to represent each victim. Last year, three people were killed and more than 50 injured in alcohol-related crashes in Delaware during the holiday season.
Finally, OHS will continue to promote its partnership with the HERO campaign for Designated Drivers. Bars and restaurants will be provided with display materials. HERO Designated Driver pledge cards will be distributed at Mocktail Parties and through corporate outreach.
The following is a list of activities that the Delaware Office of Highway Safety has planned for its 11th annual Safe Family Holiday campaign.
· DUI Checkpoints and Saturation Patrols – weekly November 26 – Jan. 1
· Mocktail Parties – OHS will hold nine non-alcoholic cocktail or “mocktail” parties this year. The Mocktail at BJ’s Wholesale Club on Rt. 113 in Millsboro is open to the public and will include interactive activities including fatal vision goggle demonstrations.
· DUI Victim’s Tree – A highly successful project now in its tenth year is in all four Delaware counties. Each red light on the tree will symbolize an alcohol-related death, and each green bulb an alcohol-related injury in Delaware during the Safe Family Holiday campaign. Trees will be located in the lobby of the Dover DMV, the Georgetown DMV, the Wilmington DMV and the New Castle DMV.