car accidentJust in time for the holidays, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has kicked off its annual "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" winter crackdown on drunk and drugged driving. This year’s campaign comes with a technology theme: a "Model Guideline for State Ignition Interlock Programs" that will help states develop and implement a breath alcohol ignition interlock program.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the program would help states enforce safe driving among convicted offenders.

Double the legal limit

Some 830 people were killed during last year’s holiday season. Deaths in 2012 in crashes involving drunk drivers increased 4.6 percent over the previous year, with 10,322 lives lost compared to 9,865 in 2011. The majority of those crashes involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher – nearly double the legal limit.,

Previous NHTSA research of convicted drunk drivers show that those with interlocks installed are 75 percent less likely to repeat the behavior compared to those who do not. The guideline emphasizes several key program features to maximize effectiveness – including legislation, education, program administration, and implementation.

"It is unacceptable and downright offensive that anyone would get behind the wheel drunk, let alone at twice the legal limit," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "I urge the states to adopt our new guidelines to protect sober motorists and ensure that individuals convicted of drunk driving learn from their mistakes."

New Year's, Christmas especially deadly

According to NHTSA's latest issue of Safety 1n Num3ers, the holiday enforcement on drunk drivers comes at a time of year when crashes involving alcohol increase. Over the past decade, almost two of every five (41 percent) deaths that occur around the New Year's holiday and the Christmas holiday (37 percent) were alcohol-impaired, compared to 31 percent nationally over the past ten years.

The crackdown runs from December 13 – January 1, 2014, and is supported by $7.5 million in national advertising in TV and radio advertising featuring NHTSA's "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign. The ads are designed to raise awareness and support law enforcement activities in every state in an effort to reduce drunk driving deaths. NHTSA's Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over message will also be featured in a new public service announcement featuring Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures' RoboCop, in theaters February 12, 2014.

View NHTSA's Model Guideline for State Ignition Interlock Programs.

View NHTSA's Safety 1n Num3ers newsletter for safety tips and information on sober driving during the holidays.