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Nov/Dec 2012 Issue

Majority of drunk driving deaths are linked to heavy drinking, study shows

A new study has found that motorists are not only making poor decisions by drinking and driving, but they are getting deeply intoxicated before getting behind the wheel.

Startling new statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that 70 percent of deaths in drunk driving crashes in 2010 involved drivers with blood alcohol levels that were nearly twice the .08 legal limit. In fact, the most frequently recorded blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level among all drinking drivers in fatal crashes in 2010 was .18, more than double the legal limit.

The research indicates that the 10,228 alcohol-impaired fatalities in 2010 accounted for nearly one-third of highway deaths on U.S. roads–the equivalent of one death every 51 minutes. Of those deaths, 7,145 involved drivers with a BAC of .15 or higher.

When looking only at drivers who were alcohol-impaired, 75 percent of 35- to 44-year-old alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes had a BAC of .15 or above, the highest percentage of any age group.

During the holiday season, AAA cautions motorists to select a designated driver if they will be attending parties and events where alcohol is served.

Louisiana installs life-saving barriers

Even before Louisiana completed a $2.7 million project to install more than 22 miles of cable barrier on Interstate 10 between New Orleans and Baton Rouge late this fall, the importance of the safety device was proven.

In May, New Orleans motorist Andrew Auguillard, a graduate student, lost control of his car on I-10 near Kenner when a dump truck spilled gravel on the roadway. His car ended up stopping in the cable barrier that separates the east and westbound lanes.

“I hit the cable barriers and they just wrapped my car up,” he said. “They really saved my life."

The barriers are designed to prevent vehicles from crossing interstate medians and into opposing traffic lanes. Since 2009, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has installed 80 miles of protective cabling along its interstates and will continue to look for sites for more.


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