Thank you, Mike for your kind words and for this award.
Over the years, I've been honored to work with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and today I'm proud to help launch the King County Red Ribbon campaign.
Together with MADD volunteers, parents, community leaders and law enforcement, we're going to save lives this holiday season.
The Red Ribbon symbolizes our commitment to safe and sober driving. It's a reminder to never drink and drive,and to always wear your seat belt.
The holiday season can be a deadly time on our roads and highways. That's because more people are traveling during the holidays, there are more parties where alcohol is served, and because our winter weather can make our roads especially dangerous. That means we need everyone to drive sober and to wear their seatbelts.
Here in Washington state, nearly 300 people were killed last year in alcohol-related crashes. Their families will never be the same, and their absence will especially painful as families gather during the holidays.
Last year nationwide, motor vehicle crashes caused more than 42,000 deaths and 3 million injuries. More than 40 percent of those fatalities were caused by alcohol-related crashes. This was the third year in a row that alcohol-related fatalities increased over the previous year.
Working together, we can make our roads safer by having a designated driver, being a responsible host, making sure everyone wears a seatbelt, and making sure that children are buckled up in an appropriate safety seat.
The campaign we're launching today is part of much larger effort that includes leaders at every level.
Over the years, I've been proud to work with MADD to increase our investment in safe highways.
I've been proud to use my position in the Senate to make our roadways safer as the former chairman and now as the ranking member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee.
Over the past two years, I've increased funding for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's drunk driving and seat belt programs by an average of 30 percent over the President’s budget request.
With the help of MADD and Senator Shelby from Alabama, I fought to make sure that we funded a national media campaign to accompany our efforts on the roads. This media campaign includes targeted TV and radio ads during primetime.
And we're already seeing some great results. The national seat belt average has reached the highest level ever at 79 percent.
Last year, Washington state passed a primary seat belt law, and that's helped our state achieve the nation's highest rate of seat belt use at 95 percent.
So we're making progress, but there's much more to do around the country. We need strong laws. We need strong enforcement. And we need strong awareness campaigns – so that drivers know the consequences if they drink and drive.
Those are big goals that MADD works to advance ever year. Now it's up to every one of us to do our part by never drinking and driving and by always wearing a seatbelt.
Together, working with parents, MADD volunteers, and law enforcement, we can save lives this holiday season.