Recent data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows a considerable decrease in the number of alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities. The 2008 Traffic Safety Annual Assessment shows that the number of alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities decreased 9.7 percent from 2007 to 2008. This significant reduction is yet another strong indication that the many efforts being made in the fight against drunk driving have had an impact. We are encouraged by the progress and will continue our comprehensive efforts to ensure that this downward trend continues.
According to NHTSA, the number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes and the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2008 reached historically low levels. In 2008, 37,261 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes, a decrease of nearly 10 percent from 41,259 in 2007, with a record low fatality rate of VMT of 1.27. Drunk driving fatalities, that is fatalities involving a driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 or higher, decreased equally to 11,773, the lowest recorded level since NHTSA began keeping records in 1982. Overall, drunk driving fatalities accounted for 32% of all traffic fatalities last year. Forty-three states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico had reductions in the number of alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities.
The considerable decrease in fatalities shows that education, effective enforcement and a focused judiciary, combined with the collective efforts of local, state, and national organizations, are having a significant impact on the number of lives lost to alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities. The continued increased attention to hardcore drunk drivers – those who drive at a high blood alcohol level (.15 and above), do so repeatedly, and have demonstrated a resistance to change – has been and will continue to be essential to the reduction in alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities.
We have teamed up with leaders in the criminal justice system - judges, prosecutors, and probation and parole officials - to encourage the United States Congress to include more resources for the criminal justice system in the reauthorization of the nation’s highway bill. These recommendations include expansion of DWI courts and educational trainings for criminal justice and law enforcement professionals. These countermeasures are especially important to reducing repeat drunk driving offenses, and we praise the leaders of the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee for including these recommendations in the Surface Reauthorization Act of 2009.