How Many Car Accidents in Maryland Are Caused by Drunk Drivers?

It’s common knowledge that large numbers of car crashes are caused by intoxicated drivers. Just how many might surprise you. In this article, the Baltimore car accident lawyers of Whitney LLP will sift through recent data published by the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to determine whether drunk driving deaths and injuries are rising or declining in Maryland. If you were in an accident involving an impaired driver, you could be entitled to compensation.

Statistics Find MD Car Accidents Increasing, But Deaths and Injuries Decreasing

The MVA publishes annual reports on the number and causes of automotive accidents throughout the state. These reports examine factors like the time of day, type of road, severity of injuries, and ages of drivers involved in accidents. By examining the relationship between these variables and the accidents which occurred during the reporting year, auto safety experts hope to identify methods of reducing crashes and collisions.

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According to the MVA annual report for 2014, there was a total of 92,518 crashes in Maryland in 2013. Among these accidents:

  • 62,873 crashes (about 68%) resulted in property damage only (PDO).
  • 29,213 injury crashes (about 31.6%) resulted in 42,716 people being injured.
  • 432 fatal crashes (about 0.5%) resulted in 466 deaths.

While the total number of accidents increased by 2,010 from 2012 to 2013, this is attributable mainly to an increased number of accidents involving PDO. From 2012 to 2013, the total number of fatalities decreased by 45, which means that on average, there were almost four fewer deaths per month. There were exactly 1,300 fewer injury crashes in 2013, resulting in 1,679 fewer injuries (about 140 fewer injuries per month).

These trends are encouraging for the future of road safety in Maryland. But is drunk driving also on the decline, or is the problem getting worse?

Are Drunk Driving Crashes Declining, or on the Rise?

According to the MVA 2015 Highway Safety Plan, about 24,000 people are arrested for drunk driving in Maryland every year. Montgomery County consistently has the highest annual average, accounting for about 4,000 DUI arrests each year, followed by Prince George’s County (with about 2,700 DUI arrests) and Baltimore County (with about 2,600 arrests).

Unfortunately, many of these intoxicated drivers will cause injurious or fatal car accidents. The report states that “over the past five years, an average of 8,035 impaired driving crashes have occurred annually on Maryland’s roadways,” with an annual average of approximately 4,192 injuries and 175 deaths. However, these averages tell us nothing about whether the problem is improving or worsening with time.

In order to make that determination, we must look at the actual figures documented in 2012 and 2013. These figures are provided by the 2014 report cited in the previous section. Because the 2015 report has not yet been published – only the 2015 Highway Safety Plan – these figures represent the most recent data available as of October 2015.

In 2012, drunk driving accidents resulted in a total of 173 fatalities, or about 33.9% of the 511 total car crash fatalities that year. In 2013, impaired drivers caused a total of 152 fatalities, or about 32.6% of the 466 total deaths that year. Not only did the overall number of drunk driving deaths decrease from 2012 to 2013 – drunk driving was also responsible for proportionally fewer deaths in 2013.

Non-fatal injuries related to driver intoxication followed a similar path, again declining in terms of both overall and proportional frequency. In 2012, impaired driving on Maryland’s roads resulted in 502 “serious injuries,” accounting for roughly 1.1% of the 44,395 total injuries that year. In 2013, drunk drivers caused 387 serious injuries, or about 0.9% of the 42,716 total injuries that year.

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While it is somewhat misleading to compare total injuries against serious injuries – the only DUI injury figures which are supplied by the 2014 report – it is still easy to see that drunk driving accounts for a far higher concentration of fatal accidents than non-fatal accidents: about one third as compared to one hundredth, respectively.

This disparity may be attributable to the correlation between intoxication and speeding, which was noted in a 2003 report published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Drawing on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the NIH report found that in 2002, about 42% of all intoxicated drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding, as compared to just 15% of sober drivers. Intoxicated drivers were defined as drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, which is the threshold for DUI in every state. (Some states also recognize a lesser offense, called DWAI or driving while ability impaired, which is charged when a driver’s BAC is slightly below the 0.08% cut-off.)

The NIH report also noted that drunk drivers were less likely to wear life-saving seat belts – about 24% in the 0.08%-0.14% BAC range, compared to about 48% of sober drivers. This likely contributed to the disproportionately high number of DUI-related fatalities.

If you were hit by a drunk driver in Baltimore or the surrounding area, you may be able to get compensated for your medical bills, lost earnings, and the pain and suffering caused by your accident. Motorists who decide to get behind the wheel after drinking or taking drugs should be held accountable when innocent people are harmed as a result. To talk about your accident in a free and private legal consultation, call the personal injury attorneys of Whitney LLP at (410) 583-8000. We also handle motorcycle accidents and truck accidents.


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