The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a study recently which evaluated DWI deaths across the United States. The report is entitled “Prevalence of High BAC in Alcohol Impaired Driving Fatal Crashes”. The research was conducted in conjunction with an annual nationwide crackdown on DWI, which commenced on August 17th and will continue through the Labor Day holiday. The program, known as “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over”, involves 10,000 police departments and law enforcement organizations.
NHTSA reports that the most commonly reported BAC (blood alcohol concentration) for drivers involved in DWI fatalities in 2010 was 0.18, which is more than double the legal limit of 0.08, which has been uniformly adopted across the U.S. There was approximately 1 DWI death every 51 minutes in 2010. 10,228 people were killed in the U.S. in alcohol impaired accidents in 2010, which constituted 31% of the total fatal car crashes that year. Of the 10,228 deaths, 65% were drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or more, 28% were passengers and 7% were non-occupants struck by the impaired driver. There was a reduction in the number of DWI traffic fatalities in 2010 from 2009, when there were 10,759.
In an examination of the drivers involved in the fatal car accidents, NHTSA found that drivers ages 21-24 were the most likely to be intoxicated, at 35%, followed by drivers ages 25 to 24 (30%), and then drivers ages 35-44 at 25%. The most common vehicles involved in the fatal accidents with drivers with a BAC of 0.08% or more were motorcycles at 28%, passenger cars at 23% and light trucks at 22%. The least frequent type of vehicle involved was large trucks at 2%.
NHTSA has been a prime mover behind an initiative to get all 50 states to institute an ignition interlock device (IID) system for first time drivers convicted of or pleading guilty to DWI. Recently the U.S. Congress approved a twenty million dollar program which would provide the states with additional monies if they implement the mandatory IID program. 17 U.S. states have such laws presently, with Missouri and Virginia the most recent states to add the IID laws. California has begun to institute mandatory IID for first time offenders in four counties, including Los Angeles.
In November of 2009, as part of Leandra’s Law, New York instituted the mandatory ignition interlock requirement for all drivers convicted of DWI, aggravated DWI, or felony DWI. The only drinking driving offense which does not require the installation of an interlock is for drivers convicted of DWAI, (driving while ability impaired), which is a violation, not a crime, and which involves operators with a BAC between 0.05% and 0.07. The IID must remain in the person’s vehicle for at least one year, they must pay for the monthly maintenance of the device (unless the defendant can prove to the Court that they are not financially capable of paying the costs and the County will then pay for the IID), and the device must be installed in all vehicles that the person either owns or operates.