The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released a report comparing fatal motor vehicle accident data in 2002 to the data of 2011. The results show some encouraging trends, especially when it comes to DUI related fatalities. The most immediate noteworthy fact is the decline in overall traffic fatalities during this period. In 2002 there were 43,005 fatal car crash victims in the United States. By 2011, that number decreased by over 10,000 to 32,367 fatalities. The number of traffic related deaths in California also saw a sharp from 2002 to 2011; dropping from 4,088 to 2,791 in less than a decade.
The study also broke down the number of deaths that occurred from drivers with different levels of alcohol in their bodies. What is interesting about these figures is that, while the number of death decreased, the percentages of people killed by DUI drivers remains steady. For example, in 2002 37% of all fatal accidents in the United States involved a driver with a BAC of at least .01%. In California, this number was 34%. In 2011, the percentages in the same category were 36% for the U.S. and 32% for California. Even though there were fewer deaths due to DUI in 2011, the percentages were still about the same.
This data suggest that perhaps drivers in general are making safer decisions and police's increased efforts to stop DUI has less to do with decreased DUI deaths than originally thought. With sober drivers causing an average of 64% of all fatal crashes, more attention should also be placed on enforcing other safe driving techniques like avoiding cell phone use and making sure cars are well-maintained.
In addition to safer driving, auto makers are continually maker cars safer and better at withstanding impact than ever before. There could be fewer deaths because vehicles, overall, are simply safer. Whatever the reason for the decline, these trends are always good to see.