The Centers for Disease Control and prevention conducts a phone survey every year to gauge how frequently people drink and drive. According to that survey, and to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drunk driving is causing fewer fatal car accidents than in previous years. The CDC estimated that there were roughly 112 million instances of drunk driving in the United States in 2010. While that number is still high, it is the lowest number reported since the CDC began gathering the data in 1993. It is also a significant decrease from the highest number ever recorded, some 161 million instances reported in 2006.
The NHTSA’s data showed that the number of fatal crashes citing alcohol as a factor dropped from 11,711 in 2008 to 10,839 in 2009. The drop does not change the fact that drunk driving is a leading cause of serious car accidents, but it does represent progress in the fight against impaired driving. Stricter law enforcement, public awareness and the faltering economy are all potential causes for the drop.
While it is difficult to find any bright spot in a troubled economy, the drop in drinking and driving may be one. Fewer people are choosing to get drunk at bars and restaurants and are instead choosing to drink at home. It saves money and it may also be saving the lives of hundreds of people on the roads.
An administrator at the NHTSA was quick to point out that drunk driving still causes, on average, one fatality every 48 minutes. But it is nice to know that that number is decreasing. Hopefully fewer people will be forced to deal with the loss of a loved one to a drunk driver in 2011 than ever before.
Source: WXIA-TV Atlanta, “CDC: Self-reported drunk driving is down,” 5 October 2011.