November 17, 2009

Inside Insurance: Drunk drivers on land, in the air, and on the water

By David Colmans

The guy arrested for drunk driving was traveling on his motorized LazyBoy recliner complete with headlights and, of course, a drink holder. This one-of-a-kind vehicle was powered by a lawnmower engine and likely did not have license plates.

None other than the crew kicked the pilot off the commercial jet since he was apparently intoxicated.

Then there were the 11,773 people who died in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2008. The slightly good news was that fatalities were down 9.7 percent from 13,041 in 2007. The bad news is alcohol-impaired crash fatalities accounted for 32 percent of all crash fatalities in 2008, the third year in a row the figure topped 30 percent.

Pardon the pun, but here’s a sobering statistic. The FBI estimates that 500,000 drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2008. That’s really scary.

At least drunk driving is defined in all states as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent, and the states all have zero tolerance laws prohibiting drivers under the age of 21 from drinking and driving. In general, the BAC is .02 percent for an arrest.

Here’s something not to be proud of for the female drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported an increasing number of women drove under the influence between 2007 and 2008. While the overall number of drunk driving arrests were down nationwide, the number of impaired women drivers involved in fatal crashes increased in 10 states and remained flat in five others.

Drunk drivers by age group is a hot topic every year. NHTSA reports that the number of people 16 to 20 years old who were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver or motorcycle operator rose 3.9 percent in 2006 compared with the previous year (the latest data available). In the 21 to 34-year-old age group, the number of DUI fatalities rose .7 percent for the same period, while fatalities dropped for all other age groups during the same period.

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