An in-depth look at drunk driving accidents

Drunk driving accidents kill thousands of people each year.

Sadly, drunk driving accidents have become commonplace in South Carolina and across the country. These preventable tragedies fill local television and print news in countless American locales. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that someone is killed in a drunk driving-related accident every 53 minutes; that equates to almost 30 people a day, and nearly 10,000 a year. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that the annual cost of alcohol-related crashes tops $51 billion.

A particularly tragic aspect of drunk driving accidents is that they disproportionately affect the young. Data provided by the CDC shows that half of the children under the age of 14 fatally injured in drunk driving crashes were in the car with the drunk driver. Two-thirds (about 64 percent) of intoxicated drivers causing accidents were between the ages of 21 and 34.

Due to a combination of factors, young people who drink and drive are not only more likely to be killed in accidents, they are more likely to cause them as well. These factors include:

  • Lack of experience on the road
  • Lower alcohol tolerance
  • Tendency toward binge drinking (which can lead to a higher blood alcohol content in a shorter period of time)
  • A false sense of invincibility
  • Increased likelihood of mixing illegal drugs with alcohol

Sobering statistics

A wide range of safety initiatives from organizations as varied as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the American Automobile Association (AAA) to federal government agencies like the NHTSA and Department of Transportation (DOT) have attempted to quell the numbers of drunk drivers on our nation's roadways. Despite their best efforts, though, a CDC survey reveals that an estimated 112 million drivers admitted to getting behind the wheel while intoxicated in 2010 alone. Compare this with the number of drunk driving arrests in the same year: only 1.4 million.

Clearly, the threat of criminal sanctions alone isn't sufficient to stop drunk drivers from putting the lives of passengers, fellow motorists or unlucky bystanders at risk. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, the criminal court system is not the only place where justice can be done. You have the legal right to pursue compensation from the driver and possibly other third parties like bar or restaurant owners who over-served the driver (through a legal premise known as "dram shop liability"). Speak with a personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your rights and about legal options at your disposal.

Keywords: drunk driving, drunk driver, intoxicated, car accident, motor vehicle accident