Drivers who have more than double the legal alcohol limit are responsible for 70% of car accident deaths, according to 2010 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That is, 7,145 of the 10,228 alcohol related motor vehicle deaths involved drivers with a blood alcohol content level of .15 or higher. Blood alcohol numbers indicate “grams per deciliter,” or g/dL. Not only is this twice the legal blood alcohol limit in Massachusetts, it’s more than twice the legal limit in every state in the Union!
The report, entitled The Prevalence of High BAC in Alcohol Impaired Diving Fatal Crashes, was published earlier this month by NHTSA. In it, the statistics show that the group of people with 0.8 g/dL or higher was greatest among 21-24 year olds. In addition, if you look at the categories by types of vehicles, motorcycle riders had the highest percentage of alcohol impaired drivers. Furthermore, night time crashes involving alcohol are four times higher than daytime crashes. Also, 16% of crashes resulting in death on weekdays were alcohol related, verses 31% on weekends. And, in a direct slap in the face on our criminal justice system regarding alcohol related driving infractions, folks with prior driving while impaired (DWI) convictions were four times more likely to be involved in alcohol related death cases than fatalities where no alcohol was involved.
The NHTA report provides multiple statistics. Some of the telling ones include the ones separating out fatalities by age, gender and by vehicle type. By our reading, the gender statistics are not all that different, except that the numbers are generally higher for men than women. The vehicle type numbers seem to indicate that light truck drivers have a higher rate of alcohol related deaths associated with them: 92% of “other light truck” drivers with a blood alcohol level above 0.15 resulted a fatality.
There were 314 Massachusetts highway fatalities in 2010, with 55% being unrelated to alcohol. 26 people, or 8% of the fatalities, involved someone with a blood alcohol level of .01 to .07; 12% of alcohol related driving deaths were associate with a blood alcohol level of 0.8 to 0.14; and, 25% of fatalities involving alcohol were as a result of a blood alcohol level of 0.15 higher.
Massachusetts drunk driving laws apply a penalty to 17 to 21 year olds if their blood alcohol level is above 0.20 g/dL. In addition, anyone with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit gets a 90 day license suspension. There is also a mandatory ignition interlock, paid for by the offender, for a repeat offender in Massachusetts. This will provide monies to Massachusetts as the Congress just voted in a $20 million budget to support states with this law. Further, your vehicle and license plate will be confiscated. For a state by state comparison, look at the Governors Highway Safety Association spreadsheet.
How can we help? Support local law enforcement. According to the NHTSA, more than 10,000 police departments are working together for an extended Labor Day 2012 campaign against drunk driving. You can check out the NHTSA Enforcement Crackdown website for more detals.
If you or a loved one is injured or killed from a Massachusetts motor vehicle crash involving alcohol, call Attorney Neil Burns at 617-227-7423 for a consultation with an attorney that has over 27 years of experience.