Washington, DC — Today’s release by the U.S. Department of Transportation of the 2004 Highway Traffic Fatality data shows a 2.4% reduction in alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Not only is 2004 the second year in a row with a decrease in fatalities, 2004 represents the first time the number of deaths has fallen below 17,000 in five years.
This reduction is a clear sign that our collective efforts are working. After several years of slight but steady increases, these numbers reflect the lowest level of alcohol related traffic crashes since 1999. While heartened by the progress, we at The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, a national not-for-profit organization funded by distillers: Bacardi U.S.A., Inc.; Brown-Forman; Constellation Brands, Inc.; Cruzan, Ltd.; DIAGEO; Future Brands LLC; Hood River Distillers.; Pernod Ricard USA; Sidney Frank Importing Co. Inc.; and dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking, will continue our comprehensive efforts to ensure that this reduction signals the beginning of a downward trend.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2004, 16,694 people lost their lives in alcohol-related traffic crashes, compared to 17,105 in 2003. Overall, alcohol-related traffic fatalities have decreased 36% since 1982, when NHTSA first began tracking such data. In 2004 alcohol-related traffic fatalities accounted for 39% of the total traffic fatalities — down slightly from 40% the previous year. Moreover, as vehicle miles traveled were expected to increase from 2003 to 2004, the number of fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled decreased from 1.48 to 1.46, the lowest level ever recorded.
In 1998, the Federal government provided incentives to state that pass effective drunk driving laws. These incentives have led to better, more effective legislation. In particular, the states’ enhanced focus on laws to fight hardcore drunk drivers — individuals who drive with a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .15 or above, who does so repeatedly, and who are highly resistant to changing their behavior — combined with education and effective enforcement have made a difference in driving the number of fatalities down. We are hopeful that the expanded, comprehensive impaired driving incentive grant program passed in last week’s highway bill will have an even greater impact on reducing drunk driving and saving lives.
Launched in 1991, The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility is funded by America's leading distillers. The Foundation's mission is to promote responsible decision-making regarding beverage alcohol and discourage all forms of irresponsible consumption through education, communications, research, law enforcement and other programs. For more information on the Foundation, log onto www.responsibility.org