Inside Insurance: A sober reality

It should be no surprise that alcohol continues to be a major factor in traffic accidents in Georgia as well as across the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there is an alcohol-impaired traffic fatality every 51 minutes.

Alcohol-impaired crashes are those that involve at least one driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above, the legal definition of drunk driving. According to NHTSA, 10,228 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2010, down 4.9 percent from 10,759 in 2009. In 2010 alcohol-impaired crash fatalities accounted for 31 percent of all crash fatalities.

The Insurance Information Institute reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that 1.5 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2008. The arrest rate works out to one arrest for every 141 licensed drivers in the United States, based on 2008 licensed drivers (latest data available).

A study released in August 2010 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that over the past year, one out of five drivers age 16 and over in the United States had driven a motor vehicle within two hours of drinking alcohol. About two-thirds of those drivers had done so in the past 30 days. The results of this study were used to estimate that 17.2 million drivers, or 8.2 percent of all drivers, had driven one or more times in the past year when they thought they were over the legal limit defining drunk driving. In addition, more than four out of five people (81 percent) saw drinking and driving by others as a major threat to their personal safety. The survey was conducted from September to December 2008.

A NHTSA study shows an increasing trend among women driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). NHTSA found that from 2007 to 2008 the number of impaired women drivers involved in fatal crashes increased in 10 states and remained flat in five states, despite an overall decline of 9 percent in all drunk driver crashes during the same period. The study confirms FBI statistics showing that arrests for women driving under the influence increased by nearly 30 percent over the 10-year period from 1998 to 2007. Over that same decade, DUI arrests for men decreased by 7.5 percent, although the total number of men arrested during the period outstripped women by about four to one.

NHTSA, in 2009, noted the percentage of drivers in fatal crashes who were alcohol impaired was highest for 21-24 year old drivers, at 35 percent, followed by 25-34 year old drivers, at 32 percent, and 35 to 44 year old drivers, at 26 percent.

I’ve already covered the social host liability concerns in a holiday article several months ago, and it’s on the GIIS website.

Georgia’s laws to help curb drunk driving include license revocation or suspension, mandatory 90-day license revocation or suspension, and mandatory ignition interlocks for repeat offenders. Georgia also has a statute for commercial servers and for social hosts.

Here’s the kicker for anyone who contemplates drinking and driving. Common sense fools us often to believe that bad thing happen to others, not to us. Does “no problem, I can handle it,” sound familiar?

Does losing your drivers license, losing your auto insurance, and gaining a new dependence on public transportation sound like something you want to try? As the bumper sticker says, “Next Time, Think!”