Good morning. December and the holiday season it ushers in is a wonderful time of year. The pace slows and moods brighten as the holiday spirit lifts us up and brings us closer together. We have a chance to visit with family and friends, to celebrate, to reminisce, to think about the year ahead as well as the year we've just finished. We have the chance to reflect on our accomplishments as individuals and as a nation.
In the last 2 years, our administration has made a good start. We've worked hard to downsize the Government and reduce the deficit and to create jobs and opportunities and to help middle class Americans take advantage of both. Unemployment is at a 4-year low. We're having the most rapid economic growth in 7 years. Things are moving in the right direction. But despite this progress, we know Americans have a lot of problems that we still have to work on up here in Washington, including stagnant incomes and crime and other difficult social challenges.
But I think all of us know that nothing we can do will truly restore the American dream unless individual Americans exercise more personal responsibility for their own lives. That's why we must continue our work here to reform welfare and to help educate more Americans with better education and training to face the challenges of a global economy in the future. The most important thing any of us can do is to take that personal responsibility for our communities, our families, and ourselves.
During the holiday season it's particularly important for all of us to take responsibility to keep our highways safe. Some 18,000 people will die this year in alcohol-related auto crashes, about one every 30 minutes. Well over a million people will be injured, one person every 26 seconds. These terrible incidents happen so frequently and are so pervasive that more than 40 percent of all Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives. Because of the determined work of private organizations, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths has dropped about 30 percent in the last 10 years, but it's very clear that we've got a long, long way to go.
Nothing is as terrible as collisions that occur when an adult under the influence gets behind the steering wheel with a child in the car. For any adult to recklessly endanger the life of a child in this way is beyond disgraceful; it's an atrocity. The crime bill I signed in September makes it clear that we won't tolerate this kind of behavior. It puts tough, new penalties on the books for people who drive drunk with children in the car and makes it easier for States to prosecute anybody who drives under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
But no matter how many laws we put on the books, no matter how many hours dedicated volunteers put into public education campaigns, these terrible deaths will only be prevented if each and every one of us takes the responsibility to do something about it ourselves. The sad truth is these crashes are caused by people who know better but drink and drive anyway, hurting themselves and often hurting others. And don't fool yourself, if you let a friend drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you're their accomplice as much as if you were behind the wheel yourself.
Preventing these disasters is simple. Stay away from drugs completely. They're illegal, and they're dangerous, and they're liable to kill you in or out of a car. If you're going to drink, be responsible. Do it in moderation and choose a designated driver who doesn't drink at all. And if you see a friend about to get behind the wheel when you know it isn't a good idea, take the keys away. It may not be easy at the moment, but it will be the greatest favor you may ever do for him or her.
Right after this radio address, I'm going to sign an order making this National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. December is a good month for that, not only because of the increased celebrating that goes with the holiday season but because the holiday season helps to bring out the best in all of us. It makes us think a little more about each other. It reminds us of the obligations we all share to improve our communities, to keep them safe and sound for our children and our grandchildren.
In that spirit, the best gift you can give anyone this year is a simple promise to yourself: If you're going to drink, don't get behind the wheel; if you see a friend about to, don't let him. Make it a New Year's resolution. Start to observe it today, and keep it for the rest of your life.
Thanks for listening.