According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatalities from impaired or drunk driving accidents are higher over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays when compared to the fatalities occurring on the other days in December.
Drunk driving statistics include any vehicle operator with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .01 and up. In 2009, 32% of total traffic fatalities for the year involved drivers with a BAC of .08 and higher. It is important to understand that just because a person may in fact be well below the.08 legal limit, their judgment and reflexes are impaired enough to cause drunk driving accidents and fatal crashes. In fact, drivers with a BAC level of .01-.07 cause an average of over 1,900 fatal crashes nationally. They are given the term ‘alcohol-impaired’ to more accurately reflect their condition.
The winter holidays are an especially dangerous time. Combine drinking at holiday celebrations with, for many, unforgiving winter road conditions, and you’ve got a deadly recipe. As drunk driving statistics show, it doesn’t take much alcohol to create an alcohol-impaired driver. Alcohol-impaired drivers cause an average of 54 fatal drunk driving accidents per day over the New Year’s holiday period alone. That’s 66% higher than the daily number for the rest of the year. Over the Christmas holiday, they cause 45 fatalities per day. A BAC of 1.7 was the most common recorded BAC level in drunk driving accidents resulting in fatality.
Many parents don’t think twice about driving the family home from a holiday celebration after having a couple of drinks. However, in 2009, a total of 181 children age 14 and younger were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. Out of those 181 deaths, 92 (51%) were occupants of a vehicle with a driver who had a BAC level of .08 or higher.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood kicked off the annual “Drunk Driving. Over The Limit. Under Arrest” winter holiday crackdown involving thousands of law enforcement agencies across the nation. Secretary LaHood also highlighted the new ” No Refusal strategy that a number of states are employing to put a stop to drunk driving.
One goal behind the policy is to improve deterrence, meaning less drunk drivers on the road, and minimize repeat offenders. According to the NHTSA drunk driving statistics, 8% of drivers with a BAC level of .08 or above had prior DWI convictions.
Through the “No Refusal” strategy, law enforcement officers are able to quickly obtain warrants from “on call” judges in order to take blood samples from suspected drunk drivers who refuse a breathalyzer test. According to NHTSA, a large number of people refuse the breathalyzer test. After adopting the “No Refusal” programs, many states have reported more guilty pleas, fewer trials, and more drunk driving convictions.
In a press event in Washington DC on Dec. 13, 2010, Administrator David Strickland told the audience that it’s important to note that the No Refusals policy “guarantees a suspect’s due process rights. Test specimens are preserved for independent verification.”
Strickland also added, “If you are going to partake of some Holiday cheer with friends and family this season and you don’t want to end up in jail, plan ahead and designate a sober driver.”
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