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NHTSA on drunk driving trends

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has some statistics on drunk driving crash deaths in Pennsylvania and the U.S. For 12 years in a row, from 2006 to 2017, the annual number of drunk driving fatalities exceeded 10,000. In 2017, there were 10,874 drunk driving fatalities reported. In addition, 28% of the motorcyclists who died in 2017 were drunk: a higher percentage than is found among car and truck drivers.

The effect of alcohol on drivers can vary based on the amount. With a blood alcohol concentration of .02, drivers may have difficulty tracking moving objects or doing two things at once. At .05, drivers will start to have trouble focusing their eyes or making the right judgment calls. At .08, they are legally drunk and will experience difficulty controlling their speed, concentrating and detecting traffic signals.

If pulled over with a BAC of .08 or above, drivers may face the suspension of their license, fines and even jail time. In some states, including Pennsylvania, first-time DUI offenders are required to install an ignition interlock: a device that measures BAC and keeps drunk car owners from starting their car. NHTSA is a supporter of this technology and has recommended that its use be expanded. Prevention should begin with people designating sober drivers to take them home after drinking.

Drivers should be held responsible when their drunkenness causes auto accidents. This doesn't mean, though, that the others involved in a crash are automatically free from blame. In Pennsylvania, anyone less than 51% at fault can file a claim against the other driver. Still, there may be opposition from the auto insurance company, so victims may want a lawyer on their case. A lawyer may work to sidestep aggressive tactics and strive for a reasonable settlement covering medical expenses, lost wages and more.

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