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Head of VCU Medical Center’s Level I trauma center featured in statewide campaign to prevent drunk driving

VCU Health trauma care expert shares important message about the harms of drunk driving in the community.

Group stands in front of a crowd, with a VCU Health provider speaking. Michel Aboutanos, M.D., shares his perspective on the dangers of drunk driving during the “Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over” campaign event. (Contributed photo)

By Pete Woody

For more than two decades, the statewide “Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over” DUI enforcement and education campaign has had an important message for Virginians. This year, VCU Health’s leading expert on trauma care shared his perspective on the harms of drinking and driving.

Michel Aboutanos, M.D., medical director of the Level I trauma center at VCU Medical Center, was recently selected by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program to participate in the launch of “Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over” campaign, which is in its 22nd year. The trauma center is the only one in the region verified in adult, pediatric and burn trauma care.

Aboutanos took part in the kickoff event on August 28, which featured Gov. Glenn Youngkin along with law enforcement, medical professionals and EMS responders who work around the clock to save lives after drunk driving crashes.

An increased enforcement period for “Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over” takes place from August 16 through the Labor Day holiday.

“I am no stranger to witnessing the devastating consequences of impaired driving,” said Aboutanos in remarks during the kickoff event, reflecting on the efforts of his VCU Health trauma center colleagues in preventing and treating alcohol-related vehicle crashes. “Impaired driving not only harms the driver, but also puts many innocent lives in danger as well. It is crucial that everyone does their part in discouraging and preventing impaired driving.”

State officials say there were 6,910 alcohol-related crashes on Virginia roads last year, which resulted in 4,174 injuries and 274 deaths. The number of people killed increased 11% compared to 2021.

“The increase in drunk driving fatalities underscores how important it is to plan a safe ride home before you drink to protect your life and the lives of your fellow Virginians,”Youngkin said. “State and local law enforcement will be coordinating with the “Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over” campaign to put a stop to these tragedies before they happen.”

The “Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over” campaign uses public safety messages and high-visibility enforcement to keep impaired drivers off the road. The joint effort between trauma care partners and law enforcement helps to communicate a simple message: if you’re old enough to drink, act like it.

Group stands in front of a crowd, with the governor speaking.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin kicks off the annual “Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over” campaign on August 28, which uses public safety messages and high-visibility enforcement to keep impaired drivers off the road. (Contributed photo)

The initiative is supported by new research from Lake Research Partners, who conducted a survey this July of Virginia drivers who are most likely to drive after drinking — 21 to 35-year-old males. The research shows that in the last year, 63% of men surveyed admitted to having driven after having a few drinks or being driven by someone who had a few drinks. While 96% of young men say they believe it is important to make a plan to get home safely after a night of drinking, only 44% frequently do.

Since the start of the “Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over campaign” in 2001, there has been notable progress in reducing drunk driving. Alcohol-related crashes have decreased by 38%, fatalities have decreased by 23% and injuries have nearly halved.

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