Majority Of Drunk Drivers In Fatal Accidents Have A High BAC

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety believes that 7,000 lives could be saved annually in the U.S. if no one drove with a blood-alcohol content higher than 0.08. But because many do, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that there is one alcohol-related death every 51 minutes in the United States.

The vast majority of alcohol-related traffic deaths - over 70 percent - are caused by drivers with a BAC of 0.15 or higher, approximately twice the level at which all states presume a driver is too intoxicated to get behind the wheel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that even a BAC of 0.02 can have some affect on driving behavior. At a BAC of 0.15, the CDC warns that a driver has "substantial impairment in vehicle control," an inability to pay attention to driving and severe impairment in processing visual and auditory information.

Clearly, drivers operating with a BAC of twice the legal limit are courting disaster. Most states have accordingly increased penalties for drivers with high BAC levels. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration researchers James Hedlund and James Fell, drivers with a high BAC tend to be male, between the ages of 25-35, and have a history of driving under the influence convictions. States are beginning to use this data when sentencing those convicted of a DUI.

Ignition Interlock Device

The majority of states now require IID installation for high-BAC drivers and repeat offenders. Seventeen states require the installation of an IID after any first offense, no matter the BAC. In California, an IID is mandatory after all drunk driving convictions in certain counties only - namely Los Angeles, Sacramento, Tulare or Alameda. An ignition interlock device requires a driver to blow into a device similar to a breathalyzer before the car will start. Throughout the ride the driver is required to blow into the IID at certain times or the car's alarm will sound.

On Oct. 1, 2012, a national transportation bill went into effect that gives additional transportation money to states with laws that require IID installation for certain drivers convicted of DUI.

Injured or Killed Drivers

One-third of traffic deaths involve drunk drivers. While thankfully drunk driving fatalities have gone down in recent years, one death caused by drunk driving is too many. Those injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver may be able to obtain compensation for injuries suffered and lost work. Families who have suffered the tragedy of losing a loved one to a drunk driver may also be able to pursue legal action to obtain compensation. A skilled personal injury attorney can advise whether or not a legal action is appropriate and guide families through appropriate steps.