New Report Cites Continued Increase in Drunk Driving in Washington-Metro Area

Nov 22, 2004

Alcohol-related traffic fatalities, injuries and crashes are all on the rise in the Washington-metropolitan area most exemplified by last year’s eight-year high number of drunk driving deaths according to a preliminary report released today by the non-profit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP).

Equally alarming was the report’s finding that last year marked Greater Washington’s fifth consecutive year recording both increased drunk driving fatalities and crashes.

“Today’s released numbers are proof positive that the local fight against drunk driving is far from won,” said Kurt Gregory Erickson, WRAP’s President.

WRAP’s preliminary, 12th annual report, “How Safe are Our Roads?, A Data Report on the Impact of Drunk Driving on Highway Safety in the Washington Metropolitan Region,” was prepared by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) for the McLean, Virginia-based alcohol-education group.

“It is vitally important for the region to continue to address drunk driving,” said Penelope Gross, a COG Board member and Fairfax County Supervisor. “Early this year, the board adopted a resolution urging all its members to enact similar standards and laws to effectively curb impaired driving. We’re still advocating for those laws and the need to act soon becomes more obvious every day.”

Findings in the 2004 report included:

FATALS…Local alcohol and or drug-related traffic deaths increased by more than 56-percent between 1998 and 2003. Last year marked the fifth consecutive year increase in such fatalities.

CRASHES…Area traffic crashes attributed to alcohol and or drugs increased by over 44-percent between 1998 and 2003. Last year also marked the fifth consecutive year increase in such incidents.

INJURIES…Local alcohol and or drug-related traffic injuries increased by 44-percent between 2001 and 2003. Last year marked the second consecutive year increase in such human injuries.

ARRESTS…Local arrests for either driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) have decreased by nearly 11-percent between 2002 and last year.

More recently, today’s released, preliminary “How Safe are Our Roads?” report found that between 2002 and 2003:

  • alcohol and or drug-related traffic fatalities on the Washington area’s roadways climbed by nearly 13-percent from 108 such deaths in 2002 to 122 last year;
  • traffic crashes attributable to alcohol and or drugs also increased by more than 13-percent from 2002 (4,843) to last year (5,474);
  • alcohol and or drug-related traffic injuries increased by over 14-percent between 2002 (3,152) and last year (3,602);
  • and local DUI or DWI arrests decreased by 11-percent between 2002 (15,745) and last year (14.042).

Of the Washington-metropolitan area’s 369 total traffic fatalities last year, over 33-percent of these roadway deaths were alcohol and or drug-related. 2003 national statistics (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA) cite that 40-percent (39.9%) of total vehicular fatalities were reported as alcohol / drug-related.

While WRAP and COG officials found some mixed solace in that the Washington-metropolitan area remains below the national average in terms of the percentage of traffic crashes involving alcohol, the same officials said that such solace is off-set by the fact that the number of local lives lost to drunk driving in 2003 was the highest in eight years.

“Lest anyone think that this upswing in drunk driving incidents is solely based on the region’s population increase, the numbers would prove otherwise,” said Erickson. “While population in the Washington-metro area last year increased one-percent, the number of local drunk driving deaths and crashes each increased by 13-percent.”

“While last year’s national (NHTSA) numbers showed the number of drunk driving deaths declining for the first time since 1999, such positive trends have yet to trickle-down to the Greater Washington area.”

WRAP’s timing in releasing its preliminary report today is in tandem with the onset of this country’s most deadly time of year when it comes to drunk driving. According to NHTSA, historically, more people are killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes between Thanksgiving and New Years than during any other period of the year.

Founded in 1982, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program is an award-winning public-private partnership working to prevent drunk driving and underage drinking. For more information, visit www.wrap.org. COG (www.mwcog.org) is the association of 19 local governments working together for a better metropolitan region.

 
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