Initiative Targets Drunk Driving Fatalities

Every year from Thanksgiving to New Year's, nearly 500 deaths in the Southeast occur as a direct result of alcohol-impaired driving. That's why medical officials in the region are banding together to prevent alcohol-related driving fatalities.

Physicians, nurses and EMS workers, in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Southeast Region, have launched a campaign called Our United Response to Preventing Alcohol Related Tragedies, or O.U.R. P.A.R.T., which was formed with the goal of reducing the number of alcohol-impaired crash fatalities and other preventable deaths associated with speeding and failure to wear seatbelts.

As part of National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, O.U.R. P.A.R.T. is engaging in a public awareness effort by supporting campaigns such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers' (MADD) "Tie One On … for Safety" and NHTSA programs such as "You Drink and Drive. You Lose."

The NHTSA's Terry Schiavone says drivers and passengers can stay safe this holiday season by:

  • Encouraging responsible actions;
  • Identifying sober designated drivers; and
  • Educating young people about safe, substance-free driving behavior.

"More than 17,000 Americans die annually as a direct result of alcohol-impaired driving, and the incidents are completely preventable," said Schiavone, administrator for the NHTSA's Southeast Region. "We hope to make a direct impact in the community and in the lives of patients by providing a platform for medical professionals to raise awareness about these deadly epidemics, and the tangible steps physicians and the general public can take to limit deadly crashes."

Another way to get involved is the "Tie One On for Safety" campaign, which asks holiday drivers to tie a red MADD ribbon to a visible location on their vehicles as a symbol of a pledge to drive safe, sober and buckled-up, and as a reminder to others to do the same. The 2004 MADD campaign also calls on drivers to commit to buckling up, which is the best defense against drunk drivers.

Officials from the NHTSA, MADD, the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies, as well as medical professionals from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, announced the formation of the coalition at a press conference at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

"I joined O.U.R. P.A.R.T. because of the countless patients at my emergency room and private practice every day who would be leading happy and healthy lives if it weren't for drunk driving," said Dr. David Volgas, assistant professor of surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "By sharing my firsthand experiences from the trenches of this battle, I hope to help people enjoy the holidays and the rest of the year, avoiding the horrific injuries and tragic deaths associated with these senseless crashes."

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