Every 51 minutes there is a death caused by a drunk driver, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That means that in the U.S., nearly 30 people die each day in car accidents involving someone under the influence of alcohol. They also report that in 2010 over 1.4 million drivers were arrested for being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These are cases that did not necessarily involve an accident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Substance (NHTSA) released a study in 2010 showing the impact of these accidents, stating that alcohol-related crashes cost the U.S. $199 billion a year due to property damage, lost productivity, emergency services, and medical, legal and court costs. The same study showed that in 2013, 290,000 people were injured in drunk driving accidents.
Another sobering fact from the NHTSA says that in 2012, 29.1 million people – more than the population of Texas – admitted to driving after drinking. Even more alarming is that two in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.
However, there is good news among some of these statistics. The NHTSA reports that there has been a 2.5 percent decline in alcohol related deaths since 2013. Overall fatalities on the highway have decreased by nearly 25 percent since 2004, but it includes all types of accidents, both alcohol-related and non-alcohol-related.
Both agencies believe that preventive measures can further reduce accidents involving someone under the influence of alcohol. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the organization formed in the 1980s to raise awareness of the devastating effects of drunk driving, reports that since their launch the number of deaths due to alcohol-related accidents has been cut in half.
The NHTSA cites sobriety checkpoints as an effective way to reduce the number of drunk driving incidents on the road. They can reduce crashes involving alcohol by 9 percent. In addition, prevention can start before drivers get behind the wheel. Active enforcement of the minimum drinking age should be the responsibility of restaurants, bars and stores that sell alcohol.
Along with MADD, these agencies believe that public education initiatives help reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road. Public service announcements, billboards and handouts in schools are all ways they’ve reached out to educate teenagers, college students and adults about the dangers of driving after having a few drinks.
MADD launched a program called Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving that resulted in new legislation in all 50 states that enforces the ignition interlock law, which are in-car breathalyzers that force drivers to prove they are sober before their car will start.
Measures considered by the CDC include raising the price of alcohol by increasing taxes and reducing the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.05% rather than the current 0.08% in North Carolina and most other states. A related statistic shows that drivers with BAC of 0.08% or higher that were in fatal accidents were six times more likely to have a prior convention for DWI.
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