WASHINGTON — Given the increase in car travel this holiday season, the federal government is releasing a timely series of holiday-specific ads intended to remind American motorists of the dangers of getting behind the wheel after too many spiked eggnogs.
According to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2014 saw 9,967 Americans killed in vehicle crashes in which at least one driver was impaired by alcohol. While that's a decline of 1.1 percent from the previous year, and the first time since 2011 that fatalities dropped below 10,000, the news isn't all positive.
NHTSA estimates that total traffic fatalities were up by 8.1 percent in the first half of 2015, compared to the same period last year, and the agency predicts a commensurate increase in alcohol-related deaths once this year's figures are in.
Accordingly, as part of its regular Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, NHTSA has launched a new series of ads running throughout the holiday season on television, digital media and thousands of movie theaters — timed to coincide with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens — reminding drivers to stay sober behind the wheel.
In one ad, "Man in the Mirror," a young man, clearly inebriated after a night of drinking, confronts his reflection in a bathroom mirror. When the reflection tries to convince him that he's "a good driver" and should get in the car, the man refuses and throws his keys on top of the sink.
Another spot, "Woman in the Mirror," depicts a similar scene with a young woman confronting her image. When she tells her reflection, "I'm buzzed," the mirror image responds, "You're fine; pick up the keys and get in your car." The woman refuses with a definitive, "No."
Both ads, says NHTSA, are intended to demonstrate that people who've been drinking can't trust themselves to judge whether or not they're sober enough to drive.
The campaign is particularly well-timed, since the National Safety Council cautions that this could be the deadliest holiday period for traffic fatalities since 2009.
NSC estimates that 307 people in the United States will be killed and 37,200 seriously injured in traffic crashes during the three-day Christmas holiday, and we could see another 346 deaths and 41,900 serious injuries during the three-day New Year's weekend.
Part of the reason for the upswing in fatalities is likely the increased car travel expected during this year's holiday season.
According to AAA, 100.5 million Americans will be traveling more than 50 miles from home in the next two weeks, an all-time record and an increase of 1.4 percent compared to last year. More than 90 percent of those travelers will be going by car.
The jump in travel, says AAA, is likely due to "continued improvement in the labor market, rising incomes and low prices, including gas prices that remain well below last year's levels."
AAA notes that the national average price for regular gasoline is "poised to fall below the $2 per gallon benchmark by Christmas," and by New Year's Day U.S. drivers will be paying the lowest fuel prices since 2009.
Edmunds says: Don't drink and drive. Cabs, Uber and sober friends and family exist for a reason.