Monday, December 13, 2010

Campaign prevents drinking and driving

Updated: Friday, 10 Dec 2010, 9:44 PM CST
Published : Friday, 10 Dec 2010, 9:44 PM CST

AUSTIN (KXAN) - A statewide effort to stop holiday drinking and driving is underway.? TxDOT is making a plea to drivers in hopes of preventing the hundreds of deaths that happen when people get behind the wheel drunk.? This is the 13th year TxDOT has urged people to designate a driver.

Although the public service announcements and posters seem comical--the message is serious---and always needed this time of year.? In fact in just the last month alone 63 people have been arrested for DWI in Downtown Austin.

On airwaves, table top coasters and bar and restaurant mirrors? the message to holiday revelers from Santa and his reindeer, "Don't Drive If You're Tipsy, Buzzed or Blitzen."

"They get the play with the words, the tipsy, the blitzen, so maybe they will one talk about it while they're at a happy hour and maybe think about it while they are there," said Tracie Mendez, TxDOT Program Manager.

Each year TxDOT launches the lighhearted campaign that's in tune with the holiday season.? Based on research the agency says people know the campaign is about designating a driver.

?"We do know that people remember this campaign.? They understand what the campaign is about," said Mendez.

Denise San Luis understands how crucial the message is.? Two years ago a drunk driver hit and injured her daughter, four years ago a drunk driver hit and minorly injured her son, and five years ago a drunk driver hit and killed her brother.

"I think it's a sign of the times. I don't feel like, wow, what a coincidence it happened to us three times.? I think it's happening everyday, all the time, everywhere," said San Luis.

San Luis says the loss of her brother, 44 year old Blake Johnson, will impact her the rest of her life.

"I miss him saying, hey sweetie, when he saw me.? He was a true big brother," said San Luis.

In Texas, last year alone alcohol related crashes killed 956 people and injured more than 17-thousand others.
"Getting behind the wheel is like carrying around a loaded gun and shooting it into the crowd," said San Luis.

San Luis says a light message for a heavy topic may prevent the kind of tragedy her family has faced.

?"If they're getting the message out, that's all that matters," said San Luis.

TxDOT says other states have called asking to use similar playful messages to prevent drunk driving.? They don't know how many lives the campaign may have saved but say they'll continue to use it each holiday season.


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