From 1982 to 2008, drunk driving statistics suggested that the number of total fatalities is falling. In 1982, there were 43,945 car accident fatalities. Out of that number, 26,173 deaths were alcohol-related, or about sixty percent of the total. About 26 years later, though, the total number of fatalities was 37,261, with only 13,846 deaths attributed to the involvement of alcohol, a drop down to 37 percent.
During that time period, the largest percentage of alcohol-related deaths occurred in 1982, although the largest number of deaths in car fatalities occurred in 1988, with 47,087. In that year, over half, 51 percent, of these deaths were alcohol related.
The decline in alcohol-related deaths may be caused, in part, by increased awareness of drunk driving, efforts put forth not only by organizations against driving while impaired, but also the manufacturers of alcohol themselves, as they attempt to reassure the public that they’re responsible corporations, even as they help create through advertising a culture that celebrates drinking.
In looking at the drunk driving statistic state-by-state, the numbers change a little. While the national average is 37 percent, some states’ alcohol-related fatalities remain as high as 50 percent, specifically in North Dakota and South Carolina. The state with the lowest percentage of alcohol related deaths that year was Utah, coming in at 20 percent. Others with low percentages include Vermont (21 percent), Iowa and Kentucky (both 27 percent).
Alcohol-related deaths in car accidents means just that — there was alcohol related in the accident. It doesn’t mean the driver was necessarily drunk; it means that either the driver, a passenger, or even a pedestrian, was drunk. The term alcohol-impaired fatalities takes into consideration that the crash was caused by a drunk driver. In 2008, then, the number of fatalities directly caused by a drunk driver were 11,773, which gives us an overall percentage of 32 percent of the total deaths that year.
While the overall drop in percentages of alcohol-related deaths may be encouraging, there still remains a great deal of work in awareness and outreach to reduce these tragic numbers even farther.
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