The number of alcohol-related crashes, fatalities and arrests in Michigan continues to drop. But whether increased education and the public’s growing awareness are reasons why remains open for debate.
According to the 2009 Michigan Drunk Driving Audit, the decline is offset by an increase in crashes and injuries involving drugs. Last year, 83 additional injuries involving people with drugs in their system resulted in a total of 6,271 injuries. In 2008, there were 6,248 injuries from crashes involving alcohol and/or drugs.
One factor in the rise could be expanded drug testing requests by law enforcement after an arrest. Keep in mind, however, “drugs” includes prescription drugs. So the number of people who may find themselves in jeopardy of violating the law is significant.
Another factor to consider is fewer cops are on patrol (due to layoffs from declining tax revenue) and more people are drinking at home – instead of restaurants and bars – to save money.
If you’re a male behind the wheel in Michigan, you’re more than three times likely to be arrested for impaired driving. Of the 45,893 alcohol and drug-related driving arrests in 2009 (1,258 fewer than in 2008), 34,222 involved men. In addition, studies have shown about one-third of all DUI arrests are repeat offenders.
Last year, approximately 40 percent of the total fatal crashes in Michigan involved alcohol and/or drugs. The 351 deaths in 2009 were a decrease from 279 in 2008.
Michigan has experienced a decline in drunk driving and alcohol-related deaths since about 1995. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Michigan’s highest number of alcohol-related deaths was in 1984, with 897. In comparison, there were only 331 deaths in 2008. The percentage of alcohol-related traffic fatalities peaked in 1982 at 63 percent and dropped to 28 percent in 2007.
On a national level, Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports you have about a 30 percent chance of being involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time during your life.
For 15- to 20-year-olds, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death. In 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 694 drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 who were killed in a crash had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. That’s approximately 25 percent of all young drivers (ages 15-20) involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes.
From an insurance perspective, the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation reports alcohol-related crashes account for an estimated 20 percent of Michigan’s auto insurance payments. Dropping that figure to 10 percent would result in a savings of $120 million in claims payments and lost adjustment expenses.
What you can expect in the future …
Since DUI is a user tax on alcohol, the government can reduce the legal limit again (which is coming) or increase patrols to make up for declines in revenue. When you take these factors into account and include the people taking prescription drugs, the number of drivers in violation of the law is only going to grow.