According to the United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) thirty-one percent of fatal traffic accidents included a driver who had blood alcohol concentration over 0.8 grams per deciliter (g/dL). A blood alcohol concentration over was over 0.8 grams per deciliter is considered to be impaired. This amounted to 10,322 fatal crashed involving impaired drivers in 2012 alone. This includes crashes involving the impaired drivers of motorcycles. This number represents an alarming increase in fatalities of 4.6 percent over 2011 or to put it in even more alarming terms an alcohol-impaired-driving fatality occurred every fifty one minutes in 2012.
The NHTSA was established Highway Safety Act of 1970 as the successor to the National Highway Safety Bureau is a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation and is mandated with reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes. It does so by conducting research on driver behavior and traffic safety, enforcing safety performance standards for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment, grants to state and local governments to enable them to conduct effective local highway safety programs, and providing information to consumers and other road users.
Among the information provided is a comprehensive rundown of traffic safety facts released annually including date on drunk or impaired driving. It can be found online here. It recently released the statistics from 2012 which showed an alarming increase in the rate of impaired driving. It is important however to note that it is impossible to tell if all of the fatalities in question were caused by impaired driving. However, the large number of fatalities where a driver was found to be impaired, thirty-one percent of all fatalities, points to a strong likelihood that impaired driving and fatalities are linked. Of all the people who died in accidents involving an alcohol impaired driver sixty five percent of those who died were drivers with a blood alcohol content of over 0.8 percent. Twenty-seven percent were other people driving or riding in motor vehicles, of which sixteen percent were passengers in the same vehicle as the impaired driver, and the remaining eight percent were people not in a motor vehicle.
These statistics suggest that the greatest risk from driving while impaired by alcohol is to the impaired driver followed by passengers riding with the impaired driver. While alcohol impaired driving fatalities have overall declined twenty one percent in the last ten years, the uptick in 2012 is worrying. As of 2012 all the states in the union as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had made it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.8 or higher. Time of day also correlated with alcohol impaired driving fatalities, with four times as many fatalities happening at night as occurred during the day. Age also correlated with fatality rates, with thirty-two percent of fatalities having a driver age 21-24, and twenty-nine percent involving a driver aged 25-34. Fatalities were also more common with male drivers as opposed to female drivers.
The NHTSA also breaks down the number of fatalities by state. New York State had 1168 fatalities. Of those, sixty-four percent did not involve alcohol impaired drivers, matching the national average. The number of fatalities increased along with the blood alcohol content of the driver, meaning that the higher the blood alcohol content the more risk of a fatality.
The takeaway from this seems to be that while the overall trend is towards less drinking and driving, 2012 saw a slight uptick in drunk driving fatalities and there is still an alarming number of fatalities involving drivers with well over the 0.8 limit. For those seeking more information about traffic fatalities can be obtained by writing to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA), NVS-424, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590 or by contacting the NCSA at 800-934-8517 or NCSAweb@dot.gov.