NHTSA spends millions to prevent holiday drunk driving

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- This holiday season, tens of thousands of law enforcement officers across the United States will be on heightened alert for impaired drivers. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration is letting the public know, through an $8 million media campaign that includes a mix of television, radio, digital, cinema, and social media outlets.

Debbie Sausville's stepdaughter Lauren died in a drunk driving crash in December, 2003.

One advertisement shows the scene of a crash; firefighters jumping into action, EMT's treating a patient, and even a suspect under arrest.

To you, it might be just another commercial encouraging you to avoid drunk driving.

But, to Debbie Sausville, it's a heart wrenching reminder of a devastating loss she suffered years ago.

“She had her driver’s license for three weeks," said Debbie. "It was December of 2003.”

Debbie says her stepdaughter was drinking before she got behind the wheel. On a dark and windy road, she crashed into the car ahead of her and flipped her SUV.

She died instantly.

“It was the most devastating thing that ever happened to us,” said Sausville.

It's a type of loss that James Owens with the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration says happens too frequently this time of year. Owens says more than 800 people were killed in impaired driving crashes across the country, last December.

“This is supposed to be a time of joy, not a time of sorrow," he says. "That number is completely unacceptable.”

That’s why the agency is spending the money on media campaigns to broadcast their message to as many people as possible.

Owens says they’re also providing more funding for local law enforcement to flag those driving impaired. He warns- it’s not just for alcohol, but for marijuana too.

“I wish that the police had been in Lauren's path that night," said Debbie.

Debbie says she thinks the money and the message can make a difference.

Personally, she’s turned her grief into action, volunteering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

This holiday season, she has a message for you.

“I want everyone to know," she said. "It can happen to anybody. It can happen to anybody."



 
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