This is traditionally a season for giving, for selflessness. And I can't think of anything more antithetical to that spirit--anything more selfish--than drinking, getting behind the wheel, and risking not just your own life, but the lives of others.
Yet every December and January, after Christmas celebrations and New Year's parties, people still do exactly that. And they do it in greater numbers than at any other time of year. In fact, every 54 minutes during the holiday season, drunk driving claims another life.
That's why today, I joined National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland to remind people that if they do decide to drink and drive, the red lights they see in their rear-view mirror won't be Santa's sleigh. They'll be a police car.
Administrator Strickland and I also announced that we're taking action to prevent drunk drivers from becoming drivers in the first place with guidelines for State Ignition Interlock Programs.
Ignition interlocks are devices that prevent people with a history of drunk driving from operating their cars. The guidelines we announced today will go a long way toward helping states adopt this technology and stop drunk drivers before they can harm anyone.
Everything else at Christmas might be sugarcoated, but not our crackdown on drunk driving. And the reason for that is the tree you see in the photo above. That tree is lit with 830 lights, one for each of the people who died during last year's holiday season. All victims of drunk driving, all tragedies that could have been prevented.
And preventing those tragic crashes is what this entire effort has been about since safety advocates like MADD and the Governors Highway Safety Alliance put the terrible cost of drunk driving on our national radar.
We have made tremendous progress in the past three decades, but we cannot let up. Because for all of the law enforcement officers who joined us today, and for everyone at DOT and NHTSA and MADD and GHSA, the hope is that next year there will be fewer lights on that tree. And that one day soon, we won't have to light that tree at all.