Alcohol-impaired-driving: NC sees increase in alcohol-related fatalities

Feb. 26, 2014 @ 05:49 AM

While motor vehicle crashes involving fatalities in North Carolina have decreased since 2008, the percentage of those fatal accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers has continued to increase from 2008-2012, according to the most recent data released from the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The NHTSA's 2012 Fatality Analysis Reporting System data indicates that statewide, total traffic fatalities in 2012 were 1,292. Nearly a third of these (402 or 31 percent) were alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities, matching the national percentage.

Nationwide, 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in 2012. These fatalities accounted for 31 percent of the total motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States.

According to the NHTSA, drivers are considered to be alcohol-impaired when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 grams per deciliter or higher. Thus, any crash involving a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher is considered to be an alcohol-impaired-driving crash, and fatalities occurring in those crashes are considered to be alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities.

The percentage of North Carolina's alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities has increased during the five year period of 2008 through 2012. In 2008, 30 percent of fatal crashes (423) involved a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher; 28 percent (363) in 2009; 29 percent (388) in 2010; 30 percent (365) in 2011; and 31 percent (402) in 2012.

As for Rutherford County, eight fatal crashes were reported in 2012, none of which suspected alcohol impairment as a factor. However, since then 12 traffic fatalities have been reported in the county through Feb. 2014, and three are suspected to have involved alcohol-impaired drivers.

"Since 2011, four traffic fatalities have occurred inside the city limits of Forest City," said Forest City Police Chief Jay Jackson. "In two of those fatalities, two passengers died. Of those two accidents, alcohol was suspected in one of them by the teenage driver."

In 2013, suspected alcohol-impaired-driving killed a 19-year-old male and a 22-year-old male in separate crashes on Rutherford County roads. And so far this year a 48-year-old male was killed as a result of alcohol-impaired-driving.

"We haven't seen a huge uptick in alcohol-impaired-driving in Rutherfordton, and if there has been an increase, it hasn't been a significant increase," said Rutherfordton Police Chief Kevin Lovelace. "We don't tend to have that many traffic fatalities in town, and I think the lower speed of the vehicles coming through is a big factor in that."

In 2012, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico created by law a threshold making it illegal per se to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. An average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality occurred every 51 minutes in 2012, according to NHTSA data.

For more national statistics including alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities based on time of day and day of week, driver age and driver records, visit www.nhtsa.gov.