Driving While Intoxicated Incidents

Driving while intoxicated incidents (DWI), especially during the holidays, have become so predictable that law enforcement departments can make accurate estimates on the number of alcohol related traffic fatalities that will occur during various seasons, events, or holidays.

Holiday Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities

Here’s the good news: alcohol-related traffic deaths have been gradually decreasing in recent years.

Here’s the bad news: even taking this decrease into consideration, it can be pointed out that the number of highway fatalities due to alcohol impaired drivers is so predictable that each holiday period numerous state highway patrol departments release highway fatality “projections” that will turn out to be surprisingly accurate.

It must be emphasized that these “predictions” have been “correct” in spite of stricter penalties for violations, increased public awareness and educational programs, numerous warnings via many different media, and efforts by law enforcement agencies throughout the country to be more visible and diligent in protecting the nation’s highways, especially during the holidays.

With the above facts in mind, let us examine some of the statistics related to holiday alcohol-related traffic accidents.

2004 Holiday Alcohol-Related Traffic Accidents

The following represents alcohol-related traffic fatalities for holidays in 2004:

  • The holiday with the most alcohol-related fatalities was New Year’s Holiday (227 alcohol-related deaths)
  • The holiday with the least alcohol-related fatalities was New Year’s Eve (40 alcohol-related deaths)
  • The holiday with the highest percentage of alcohol-related fatalities as compared to the total traffic fatalities was New Year’s Day (68.9% of all traffic deaths were alcohol-related)
  • The holiday with the highest percentage of alcohol-related fatalities as compared to the total traffic fatalities was New Year’s Day (68.9% of all traffic deaths were alcohol-related)
  • Super Bowl Sunday resulted in 58 alcohol-related deaths (this was 63.7% of the total traffic fatalities)
  • Thanksgiving resulted in 179 alcohol-related deaths (which was 39.5% of the total traffic fatalities)
  • Christmas resulted in 147 alcohol-related deaths (which was 47.4% of the total traffic fatalities)
  • From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, there were 1,316 alcohol-related deaths (this was 37.5% of the total traffic fatalities during this time period)

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Driving While Intoxicated Incidents and Statistics

Here’s some additional driving while intoxicated incidents and statistics:

  • Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in the United States for people under the age of 34. And of these fatalities, more than 40% are alcohol-related.
  • It is estimated that 40% of all the people in the U.S. will be involved in an alcohol-related traffic accident at some point in their lives.
  • Due to the diligence and the hard work of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), approximately 1,600 new DWI laws have been passed nationwide since 1980.
  • Each year approximately 17,000 individuals are killed in alcohol-related traffic accidents in the U.S.
  • Individuals with prior convictions for DUIs make up 1% of the population of nighttime drivers. In spite of this, they account for more than 50% of the alcohol-related nighttime accidents.
  • In spite of the hundreds of laws have been created to prevent and reduce impaired driving, researchers have found that repeat offenders and drivers with high blood alcohol concentrations have found ways to evade arrest, avoid detection, and escape sanctions and prosecution.
  • 41% of 1,672 motorcycle drivers who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2004 had blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels of 8% or higher.
  • In 2003, 77% of the fatal crashes that took place between midnight and 3:00am were alcohol-related.

State-By-State Alcohol-Related Driving Fatality Statistics

The following represents some state-by-state statistics regarding alcohol-related driving fatalities in 2005:

  • Utah, at 13%, had the lowest percentage of alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. (37 alcohol-related deaths out of a total of 282 traffic deaths).
  • The District of Columbia, at 54%, had the highest percentage of alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. (26 alcohol-related deaths out of a total of 48 traffic deaths).
  • California, with 1,719, was the state with the most alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. (1,719 alcohol-related fatalities out of a total of 4,329 traffic deaths).
  • Vermont, with 29, was the state with the least alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. (29 alcohol-related fatalities out of a total of 73 traffic deaths).
  • Nationally, the percent of alcohol-related fatalities was 39% (16,885 alcohol-related deaths out of a total of 43,443 traffic fatalities).

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Some Alcohol Odds and Ends

According to recent studies, beer is the drink of choice in most cases of drunk driving, underage drinking, binge drinking, and excessive drinking.

Research also reveals that those who drink excessively have a preference for drinking at other people’s home, at bars, and at more than one location, thus requiring longer driving distances.

Moreover, researchers have discovered that younger drivers have a preference for drinking at private parties, while older, more experienced, drivers prefer drinking at taverns and bars.

Experts in the field define a “standard drink” as 12 ounces of beer, 1.5 ounces of 72-proof distilled spirits, or 5 ounces of wine, all of which contain approximately .54 ounces of alcohol.

Often a point of misinformation, impairment or intoxication is not related to the type of alcoholic drink, but instead to the amount of alcohol consumed over a specific period of time.

The average person metabolizes alcohol at the rate of approximately one drink per hour.

Contrary to popular opinion, however, taking a cold shower, vigorous exercise, and/or drinking strong coffee will not help a person become sober.

Time is the only factor that will allow a person to become sober.

Sobering Thoughts About Driving While Intoxicated Incidents, Accidents, and Fatalities

The many statistics above point to some grim facts about driving while intoxicated incidents, accidents and fatalities.

Perhaps the two statistics given above that make the strongest argument for even more radical drinking laws and consequences are the following:

  • Approximately 17,000 Americans are killed in alcohol-related traffic accidents every year.
  • In spite of the hundreds of laws have been created to prevent and reduce impaired driving, repeat offenders and drivers with high blood alcohol concentrations have found ways to evade arrest, avoid detection, and escape sanctions and prosecution.

Alcohol and the Mixed Messages in Our Society

Are we receiving mixed messages in our society about alcohol?

Simply put, how can something as accepted, accessible, and prevalent in our society be so harmful AND illegal when consumed at or just above “moderation”?

Indeed, drinking alcohol is pervasively and intimately engrained in our society.

Yet in all 50 states, driving with a blood alcohol level of .08% will result in a DUI or DWI if the driver is caught by the police.

Something obviously is not right in our society and the way in which it views alcohol.

If drinking can lead to alcoholism alcohol abuse by so many people in our society and can result in severe health problems and alcohol-related fatalities and injuries, perhaps alcohol should not be as available and as highly advertised as it is in our county.

Conclusion: Driving While Intoxicated Incidents

Although alcohol-related traffic deaths have been decreasing ever so slowly in recent years, driving while intoxicated incidents, particularly during the holidays, have become so predictable that each holiday period numerous state highway patrol departments release highway fatality projections that, unfortunately, will turn out to be surprisingly accurate.

Until the mixed messages in our society are significantly reduced and people in our society are not so accepting of and prone to excessive drinking, it seems that the “projections” by the various law enforcement agencies and organizations will continue to be as accurate as they have been from a historical perspective.

From a different perspective, if you involve yourself in drunk driving at the very least you are abusing alcohol.

As a result, it is important to keep the following fact in mind: the more alcohol is consumed in an abusive manner, the more likely it is that the drinker will become an alcoholic.

If this describes you, then you need to be honest with yourself and admit that you have a drinking problem.

Once you have taken this step, consider making it a priority to talk with an alcohol abuse and alcoholism professional about getting alcohol treatment as soon as possible.

In fact, if you are concerned about your drinking behavior and you feel the need to talk with a counselor or a therapist, please call your local drug and alcohol treatment center and make an appointment.