Are We Winning the Fight Against Drunk Driving?

Even though drunk driving is a weighty issue at all times of the year, the matter comes into fresh focus every April during Alcohol Awareness Month.

There is a good reason why this issue deserves close attention: About one-third of the nation’s traffic fatalities each year involve drunk drivers, according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.

A person who takes the risk of drinking and driving is not only threatening him or herself. The person also endangers the safety of everyone else on the road.

Thankfully, it appears that national efforts against drunk driving are beginning to pay off. However, there is still much work to be done. Since drunk driving is 100 percent preventable, we should take every opportunity to advance the cause of eliminating it.

Trends in Drunk-Driving Fatalities

The following graphs represent recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for drunk-driving fatalities in the U.S. and Virginia, respectively. The NHTSA counts any fatality that involves at least one drunk driver—that is, a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher, which is the legal limit.

Drunk-Driving Fatalities in the U.S.


2010 2011 2012



10,288 9,878 10,322



Drunk-Driving Fatalities in Virginia


2010 2011



211 224


Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

As these statistics show, there has been a mostly downward trend in the number of drunk-driving fatalities both nationally and in Virginia.  In fact, this trend has been noticeable for much longer than five years. Drunk driving actually has been on a steady decline since the early 1980s, the NHTSA reports.

Legislative, Law Enforcement and Awareness Efforts Have Led to Decline

There are many reasons why drunk driving has decreased.

First, legislative bodies and law enforcement agencies have made the reduction of drunk driving a priority. Laws have become stricter, and penalties have become harsher. Mandatory license revocation and ignition interlock device penalties have been used to deter drivers from driving after drinking. Also, during specific times of the year – usually holiday periods – law enforcement agencies have used checkpoints and targeted patrols to catch drunk drivers.

Second, many states have focused on young drivers, who have higher accident rates in general. Thirty states have instituted a zero-tolerance policy, meaning that a driver under the age of 21 with even a very low BAC is considered a drunk driver.

Finally, much media attention and activist efforts have been focused on the dangers of drunk driving. These efforts have effectively raised the public’s awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Drugged Driving: A New Front in the Battle

Although drunk driving is on the decline, the battle to end impaired driving has not yet been won. Any death caused by a drunk driver is one death too many. Additionally, the issue of drugged driving has emerged as a new front.

Statistics and studies show that drug use by drivers – especially marijuana and prescription drug use – has actually increased in recent years. In the future, the same methods that have been used to decrease drunk driving should be focused on drugged driving as well.

If you or a loved one has been hurt by a drunk driver or drug-impaired driver, you can take steps to hold that driver accountable and obtain the compensation you need for your recovery. It is important to contact an auto accident attorney to protect your legal rights. Just call Geoff McDonald & Associates, P.C., to learn more.