Feds kick off annual holiday drunk driving crackdown

WASHINGTON (HawaiiNewsNow) - The annual "Drunk Driving. Over The Limit. Under Arrest" winter holiday crackdown involving thousands of law enforcement agencies across the nation was launched Friday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

It is illegal in the state of Hawaii to drive with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of .08 or higher, yet 52 of the 109 traffic fatalities in 2009 were due to alcohol-impaired driving.

The holiday enforcement crackdown is supported by $7 million in national TV and radio advertising and runs from December 15 through January 3.

"Drunk driving remains a leading cause of death and injury on our roadways," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "I applaud the efforts of the law enforcement officials who have pioneered the 'No Refusal' approach to get drunk drivers off our roads. And I urge other states to adopt this approach to make sure that drunk drivers can't skirt the law and are held accountable."

Secretary LaHood also highlighted the new "No Refusal" strategy that a number of states are employing to put a stop to drunk driving.

Through the "No Refusal" strategy, law enforcement officers are able to quickly obtain warrants from "on call" judges in order to take blood samples from suspected drunk drivers who refuse a breathalyzer test.

According to DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2005 there was an 11 percent breath test refusal rate among drivers in Hawaii. The latest NHTSA data shows that states that have adopted "No Refusal" programs report more guilty pleas, fewer trials and more convictions.

"When it comes to drunk driving, we cannot afford to have repeat offenders," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "The 'No Refusal' strategy helps support prosecutions and improves deterrence, which means fewer drunk drivers on the road. I want to remind everyone this holiday season: if you're over the limit, you're under arrest. So please, for safety's sake, find a designated driver or take a taxi if you are under the influence."

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