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In November the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the official traffic fatality statistics for 2014, including fatalities tied to alcohol-related crashes. Last year drunk driving deaths fell to 9,967, finally dropping below 10,000 for the first time since 2011. Overall traffic fatalities also declined.

NHTSA tempered the good news about the drop in deaths with some cautionary notes. First, drunk driving deaths still make up about one-third of all traffic fatalities—a proportion that has remained largely unchanged for many years. Critics argue that the consistency of this proportion could mean that drops in alcohol-involved traffic deaths might be tied to factors like safer cars and other general improvements in roadway safety versus an actual decline in drunk driving.

Negative Indicators for 2015

In addition, while final 2015 tallies won’t be available until next year, NHTSA reports a troubling trend in the preliminary numbers for this year. Estimates for the first six months of 2015 show an 8.1% increase in traffic fatalities over the same timeframe for 2014. This overall increase could mean that drunk driving deaths in 2015 will also rise.

2014 State Rankings 

The 2014 state-level stats show that Texas had the highest number of drunk-driving deaths and tied for the highest percentage of overall roadway deaths linked to alcohol. The following states had the highest and lowest percentages of alcohol-involved traffic deaths last year:

States with largest percentages of alcohol deaths
  Alcohol Traffic Deaths % of Total Traffic Fatalities
Texas 1,446 41%
Massachusetts 133 41%
North Dakota 55 41%
Delaware 49 40%
Connecticut 97 39%
States with lowest percentage of alcohol deaths
  Alcohol Traffic Deaths % of Total Traffic Fatalities
Vermont 9 20%
Utah 56 22%
Oklahoma 154 23%
Michigan 215 24%
Georgia 278 24%
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Alison Betts

Alison Betts

Alison Betts has nearly two decades of experience as a communications professional and researcher in corporate, nonprofit, and high education settings. Betts joined SCRAM Systems in 2013 and is the Director of Marketing & Public Relations. Prior to coming to SCRAM Systems, she held research and teaching positions at universities in Arizona and Colorado. Betts has also served as a public relations professional and grant writer in the nonprofit sector, where she saw first-hand the devastating impact of alcohol and substance abuse on families and communities. Betts holds an MA in English from the University of Colorado and a Master’s in Applied Communications from the University of Denver.

3 Comments

  1. Ms Alison Betts,
    Thank you for this reporting on alcohol-related traffic deaths. And particularly the caveat that reduced total DUI fatalities may be more related to safety factors rather than an decrease in proportion of alcohol-related crashes.

    Good work

    Tom Gentry

  2. I’ll be interested to see if the estimates for 2015 are accurate. An 8.1% increase means this is a serious issue.

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