NHTSA: Drunk Drivers Cause One Death Every 51 Minutes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released a Traffic Safety Fact Sheet discussing alcohol-impaired driving across the United States.

Though alcohol-impaired-driving deaths decreased 4.9% in 2010 compared to 2009, the numbers are still staggering. Over 10,000 people died in 2010 because of a drunk driver. That equates to one person every 51 minutes who dies at the hand of a drunk driver. Even more disturbing: 17% of those who died were 14 years old or younger. These numbers indicate that 31% of all traffic deaths involve an alcohol-impaired driver.

The study goes on to state that fatal crashes are four times more likely to happen at night. Not surprising, alcohol-impaired accidents resulting in death are more likely to happen on the weekends versus a weekday.

It appears that young drivers are at the highest risk to cause a fatal accident. Drivers between the ages of 21 and 24 cause 34% of all alcohol-impaired deaths. This age group is closely followed by the 25 to 34 year olds, who cause 30% of alcohol-impaired deaths, and then the 35 to 44 year olds, who cause 25% of these fatal accidents. It would be interesting to study whether age and maturity result in better decisions, or whether alcohol misuse declines as the population ages. Both? Do public awareness campaigns have a cumulative impact over time, contributing to that trend? MADD’s efforts over the last 20+ years represent one of the most effective public awareness campaigns in history. Does it take years of exposure before we heed the message?

Repeat offenders continue to challenge law enforcement, courts

Not surprisingly, a repeat offender is four times more likely to cause a deadly crash. That is why groups such as The Century Council have focused efforts on the Hardcore Drunk Driver. And in the last year, we’ve identified an increased focus on repeat offenders in DUI legislation and policies aimed at reducing drunk driving. With 58% of fatal accidents caused by someone with a .15 BAC or higher, is there a growing acceptance of Super Drunk laws, which penalize those driving with BAC twice the legal limit or higher?

So what do these numbers tell us? We seem to be heading in the right direction. What initiatives, sanctions, or programs do you think are making the biggest impact on the reduction of alcohol-related traffic fatalities?

4 Responses to “NHTSA: Drunk Drivers Cause One Death Every 51 Minutes”

  1. Thanks for the article and the statistics. I used your article for research regarding gun control, and how when we see all the horrific episodes of gun violence there seems to be a call to limit access to guns. Unfortunately, our society fails to have this same debate when it comes to the thousands that are killed on our highways by drunk drivers. We as a nation need to look good and hard at ourselves and our priorities.


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