The Law Offices of John Phebus

Drunk driving rate hits 13-year low

Arizona readers may be interested to learn that the U.S. drunk driving rate fell to a 13-year low in 2014, according to federal statistics. While the national rate of those driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs has not dropped significantly in recent years, it has dipped slightly since 2008.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 11.1 percent of Americans admitted to federal interviewers that they had driven while drunk sometime in 2014. Since the statistics are self-reported, the numbers may not be completely accurate. However, the survey has been conducted with the same methodology since 2002, so it can accurately identify trends over time. In 2002, 15.3 percent of U.S. drivers said they drove under the influence of alcohol, 5 percent said they drove after using illicit drugs and 3.3 percent said they got behind the wheel while under the influence of both. In 2014, those numbers dipped to 11.1 percent for alcohol, 4.1 percent for illicit drugs and 2.4 percent for both.

Experts say it's encouraging to see drunk driving numbers headed downward, but there is still room for improvement. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 10,265 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in 2015, which is around 300 more than in 2014. However, Americans logged more miles in 2015, so the rate of drunk driving fatalities actually fell to a 10-year low, with .32 deaths per million miles.

Arizona residents who have been handed drunk driving charges can face harsh penalties, including significant jail time and heavy fines, if they are convicted. Accordingly, having the assistance of an attorney when attempting to mount a defense can be advisable. For example, the attorney may find issues with the way the traffic stop was conducted or field sobriety tests performed.

Source: NOLA, "Drunk driving rate falls to new low in U.S.", Dec. 30, 2016

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