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December 20, 2002
For Immediate Release
Contact: Dan A. Gwadosky
(207) 626-8400

Secretary Gwadosky Encourages Highway Safety for Holidays
Roadway Safety Advocates Gather at Turnpike
to Kick-off Distribution of 50,000 Reminder Cards

Secretary of State Dan A. Gwadosky joined today with several organizations that share a mission of promoting safety of Maine's roadways to kick-off the seventh annual Holiday Highway Safety Event. The group gathered to encourage Maine citizens and holiday visitors to drive safely over the holiday season and throughout the New Year.

Motorists on the Maine Turnpike will be receiving reminder cards outlining the dangers of drinking and driving, as well as the warning signs of driver fatigue. The Maine Turnpike Authority has agreed to distribute the reminder cards to motorists beginning on December 20, 2002. Over 50,000 reminder cards will be distributed during the holidays.

Recent information released by the Maine Department of Public Safety indicates that educational programs such as the Holiday Highway Safety Event, along with Maine's tough drunk driving laws, have reduced the number of alcohol related fatalities on Maine's roadways. The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NTHSA) recently released that Maine has one of the lowest rates in the nation for fatalities resulting from drunk driving. In 2001, 24% of the 192 highway fatalities involved alcohol. This is a dramatic reduction from a 60% rate in 1980 and 1981.

At today's event, Secretary Gwadosky discussed two serious highway safety issues--drowsy driving and driving while intoxicated. "Before starting a trip this holiday, drivers should be well rested and during the journey it is important to stop when feeling fatigued," Secretary Gwadosky said. "If you drive when you are tired, you put yourself, your passengers and other motorist at risk. The best way to combat drowsiness is to rest."

Secretary Gwadosky also acknowledged that the holidays are a time of celebration but warned, "If you have been drinking, do not drive. Arrange for a designated driver or cab before you go out to celebrate the holidays. It's the best gift you can give yourself, your family and your fellow travelers on Maine's highways."

"Maine has suffered a high number of fatalities on its roadways this year," said Secretary Gwadosky. "This is an opportunity to remind those who will be traveling over the holidays to drive with care. We hope this event encourages safe and responsible driving throughout the new year."

Joining Secretary Gwadosky at the Kickoff were members from the following organizations:

Maine Turnpike Authority Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Maine State Police Maine Transportation Safety Coalition
Maine Chiefs of Police Parents Against Tired Truckers
Maine Sheriff's Association  

The Maine Turnpike Authority and HMSHost have provided for an additional benefit to motorists. The reminder card may be redeemed for one cup of coffee at any Maine Turnpike rest area on December 24, 25, or 31, 2002 or January 1, 2003 compliments of HMSHost and the Maine Turnpike Authority. In addition, the Maine Turnpike Authority will be using its message boards along the turnpike to provide similar safety information.

Secretary of State Gwadosky is the chief Driver Licensing official in the state and oversees driver licensing and education, as well as vehicle registrations. Gwadosky's remarks were delivered at the kickoff of the seventh annual Holiday OUI Awareness Event. Gwadosky gathered with other safety advocates at Exit 14 A of the Maine Turnpike as turnpike employees began passing out the holiday reminders.