New Statistics Show Road Deaths Declining


States have been pushing new drunk driving laws increasing restrictions on drivers and penalties for convicted DUI offenders with the sole intention of preventing accidents. Naturally, automobile accidents occur for many reasons, most of which do not include alcohol. But as DUI penalties and regulations have been tightened over the years, alcohol-related crashes have become a proportionally lower percentage of all accidents, from a high of 35% in the 1980s to a steady 20% rate over the past few years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

However, the NHTSA recently delivered a piece of good news in the form of its latest statistics on automobile accidents and deaths. Statistics from last year show another drop in traffic fatalities, one that reached the lowest level since the NHTSA began compiling statistics on the subject in 1994.

According to the NHTSA, 41,059 deaths occurred on U.S. highways during 2007. Both the overall number of automobile accident deaths and the fatality rate per 100 million vehicles-a standard measure of accidents-dropped to historically low levels.

Furthermore, total injuries dropped to an estimated 2.49 million, also the lowest number since the NHTSA began compiling injury information in 1988.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters suggested in a press conference that the drop in deaths and injuries could be attributed to "safer vehicles, aggressive law enforcement and our efforts."

However, a press release marking the release of the new statistics provided some other information that wasn't nearly as positive. Motorcycle fatalities have become a larger subset of all traffic fatalities, now comprising 13 percent of all fatalities. In just 2007, motorcycle deaths raised by 6.6 percent.

As part of its mission to promote awareness of the dangers of drunk driving, the NHTSA is partnering with many local law enforcement agencies with its annual DUI crackdown, effective with efforts between the middle of August and Labor Day (a perennially bad holiday for DUI). This year's effort has the title "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest."

As part of the initiative, states across the country are running their own promotional campaigns, mobilizing more highway patrol officers in groups called "saturation patrols," and setting up DUI sobriety checkpoints in strategic locations.

We've written extensively at Total DUI about the legality and effectiveness of DUI checkpoints. But regardless of the validity of the concept behind them, drivers should be extra-cautious when driving during the upcoming holiday weekend. Check your local newspaper or television news broadcast for more information about efforts in your area, including the location and dates of DUI checkpoints.

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