Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death in this country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with statistics finding that over 33,700 people died in fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2014. Car crashes are the main cause of death in preventable accidents (opioids are second) according to the CDC.
In 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an average of 96 people died each day in motor vehicle crashes in 2015, one fatality every 15 minutes. Of these fatal crashes, there were 10,265 alcohol impaired-driving fatalities, representing an average of one alcohol-impaired driving fatality every 51 minutes.
This means that every hour in this country, someone dies in a drunk driving crash.
In our last post, we warned about how the risk is high for a drunk driver causing a fatal traffic accident during the month of December and especially the time between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. Drunk driving remains a huge problem in this country, and a major cause of fatal motor vehicle accidents.
However, there are other dangers and risks that contribute to fatal auto accidents here in Indiana and Illinois. What are the risks we face besides a drunk driver who cannot control his vehicle because he or she is inebriated?
And how do we factor in the reality that several things may work together to cause a fatal crash? For instance, a drunk driver may be driving on icy roads or in a winter storm. He may or may not be wearing a seat belt. What kind of vehicles are involved in the crash?
Contributing Factors in a Drunk Driving Fatal Crash
Research reveals some scary information about drunk driving accidents and the circumstances surrounding these preventable fatalities. Among them are the following:
Time of Day
The danger of being involved in a fatal drunk-driving accident skyrockets when the sun goes down. Drunk-driving fatalities are 350% more likely to happen at night than during the day.
Day of the Week
You are at a higher risk of being involved in a fatal drunk-driving crash if you are on the roads during the weekend as opposed to a weekday. Almost a third of fatal drunk driving accidents (28%) happen on Saturday or Sunday.
Type of Vehicle
The smaller and lighter the motor vehicle, the greater the risk of dying in the drunk driving accident. For the drunk driver (driver with BAC .08 or higher), the greatest risk of dying in the crash was when he or she was driving a motorcycle in the crash. Twenty-seven (27%) of motorcyclists riding under the influence of alcohol (BAC .08 g/dL or higher) died in the accident.
Coming in second were drunk drivers who were operating a sedan or passenger car. Twenty-one percent (21%) of these drivers (BAC .08+) died in the DUI crash; 20% of the drivers of a pickup truck or light truck died in the drunk driving crash. Drunk drivers are more likely to survive a motor vehicle accident if they are operating any kind of large truck (98% survive the crash).
Age of the Driver
Drunk drivers who are involved in fatal car crashes are often under the age of 34 years. Twenty-eight percent (28%) of drunk drivers in fatal crashes with a BAC at or above the legal limit (BAC .08) were between the ages of 21 and 24 years old. Another twenty-seven percent (27%) of fatal drunk-driving accidents had drunk drivers between the ages of 25 and 34 years.
This means that most drunk driving fatalities (55%) are caused by drunk drivers between the ages of 21 and 34 years.
Children in the Car
We know that children under the age of 14 years are at a great danger of dying in a car crash where alcohol is a contributing factor. According to NHTSA statistics, 51% of children under the age of 14 years died in motor vehicle accidents where the driver had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher (legally drunk in Indiana or Illinois).
Prior Arrests or Convictions
When there is a drunk driving fatality and the drunk driver tests out at a blood alcohol content of .08 g/dL or higher (legally drunk in Indiana or Illinois), it is 450% more likely that this driver has been in trouble with the law in the past for driving under the influence (DUI). Fatal drunk driving accidents are 450% more likely to have drivers with histories of prior car crashes; driver’s license suspensions or revocations; and criminal convictions for driving drunk.
Level of Inebriation
In both Indiana and Illinois, the law defines “drunk driving” or “driving under the influence” as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08. However, over half of fatal drunk driving accidents have drivers that have BAC levels that are much higher than .08.
An astonishing 84% of drivers in a fatal crash had a BAC over the legal definition of drunk (.08). Even more disheartening, over half of the drunk drivers in a fatal accident had a BAC at twice the legal definition of drunk (.15).
Sixty-seven percent (67%) of all fatal drunk driving accidents in 2015 had a drunk driver with a BAC that was .15 or higher. The majority of recorded BAC levels in fatal accidents is .14.
The Risk of Drunk Driving Fatal Crashes in Illinois and Indiana
Considering these statistics, it would seem that we would be advised to drive more carefully over this holiday season, particularly in the days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. We need to be alert to a higher risk for drunk drivers on the road on weekends and during the evening hours. We need to consider the type of vehicle we are driving, as compared to the other vehicles on the road. Driving a semi-truck is safer than driving a sedan in a drunk driving crash.
And we know something about the drunk driver: odds are higher that the drunk driver is a young adult (between the ages of 21 and 34 years) and he or she may well be very much over the legal limit.
In a fatal drunk driving accident, all of these factors will play a part in determining fault and probable cause as liability is assessed for the fatal crash. The personal injury and wrongful death laws of Indiana and Illinois work to bring justice to the victims of a drunk driving crash, but the two states do not do this in the same way.
The laws of each state are different. See, “Drunk Driving Accident: Who’s Legally Liable? Answer is Different for Indiana and Illinois.”
Of course, the better course is to not drive drunk and to avoid being in situations where the risk is high of a drunk driving accident. Let’s be cautious over this holiday season and make our loved ones aware of these dangers too. Let’s be careful out there!