New Battle Against Drunk Driving

Drunk Driving, Drinking, DUI, Alchohol, Car keys CBS/AP

If ever there was a time for a drunk driving crackdown, it's this holiday weekend.

"Fifty-five percent of the people who are killed in crashes on the 4th of July holiday are killed because someone was driving drunk," said Wendy Hamilton, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

After nearly two decades of success driving down the numbers of drunk drivers, the last three years have seen the numbers start to rise again. Last year, nearly 18,000 people died in alcohol related crashes — the most since 1992.

That's why the federal government isn't letting its efforts stop at checkpoints, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod. A new $11 million television campaign is being targeted at the part of the public most likely to drive drunk, 21- to 34-year-old men. It's more than what the message say, but also where they are played: On the kinds of television shows that audience is most likely to be watching, such as pro wrestling and sports round-up shows.

MADD's Hamilton approves of the new ads.

"We think they're pretty good. They're pretty hard hitting," she told Axelrod, and also says the target audience is appropriate.

"(Men 21 to 34 are) the ones that are out there typically driving drunk and causing the crashes and dying," she said. "Everyone's doing it, but those are the ones that are typically overrepresented."

The Department of Transportation estimates 560 Americans will die in driving-accidents through Sunday, reports CBS News Correspondent Dan Raviv, and more than half of the crashes will involve what are called "impaired" drivers — people who drank alcohol over the legal limit.

In Chicago at the start of the weekend, police said an impaired driver blew threw a stop sign and plowed into a building, killing three young boys and a woman. The victims were in front of the building when a speeding white sedan ran through a stop sign and crashed into them.

Killed were two 10-year-old boys, an 8-year-old boy and a 52-year-old woman. A 4-year-old female passenger of the car was being treated for a broken leg

Drunk driving is one of our cultural plagues that seems so "last century," as if it were a problem already dealt with in the 80's and 90's. In the post-Sept. 11 world, many Americans have moved on to a new list of problems.

"What has changed is the social apathy, said National Highway Traffic Safety Administration deputy administrator Otis Cox.

"Folks think the problem has already been solved. 'We've worked on this enough, we've done all this,'" he said. "We have an epidemic on our hands, and the only way to change any epidemic is to start taking giant steps.

And that means on the television and on the street, a new high-profile government fight against drunk driving will be very much a part of this holiday weekend.
  • Lloyd Vries

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