NEW YORK – After 14 years of telling New Yorkers about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol, a new study found the state hasn’t made any progress in preventing deadly accidents caused by drunk driving.
The research analyzed numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and found the percentage of those killed in drunk driving crashes remained, for the most part, unchanged since 2009.
Researchers said 10,076 people died in crashes involving a drunk driver who wasn’t sober and wasn’t pulled over in 2013. The 10,076 killed in drunk driving accidents accounted for 30.9 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities that year. Just before the anti-drunk driving campaigns began to take off in 1999, 30.1% of motor vehicle deaths were caused by an intoxicated driver.
“People’s lives can be destroyed by a drunk driver in Queens,” car accident lawyer Steve Barnes said. “To find out little has changed over the past decade is really disheartening to everyone, especially to those families who lost a loved one in a crash.”
The former NHTSA researcher who conducted this study noted the total number of crashes is down and the actual number of DUI fatalities in California dipped by 6 percent as well. However, the study focused on the percentage of fatalities caused by intoxicated driving.
“It’s no secret that cars are much safer today than they were 10 years ago,” Barnes said. “By now, drivers should get the message that drunk driving takes lives and this research shows that message just isn’t connecting with everyone.”
The study concludes that a changing public information message may also be a contributing factor in the lack of progress. From 1982 to 1999, public service announcements branded advertisements with the phrase, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” That message changed to a general deterrence program in 1999 and commonly uses the phrase, “drive sober or get pulled over.”
Researchers point out that states are not living up to these messages as the total number of DUI arrests is down 22.8 percent and authorities would have needed 344,000 more DUI arrests in 2013 to equal the number of drivers busted in 1999.