Drunk Driving Deaths Dipped in 2017. But That’s Not the Whole Story.
In 2017, 10,874 people lost their lives in drunk driving crashes, according to recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Based on the reported numbers, alcohol-impaired driving deaths dropped 1.1% from 2016.
DUI Fatality Numbers for 2016 Revised
Fewer fatalities are always good news. But it is worth noting that NHTSA’s Alcohol-Impaired Driving: 2017 Data compares last year’s drunk driving deaths to a substantially revised number from 2016.
Both the initial annual report on alcohol-impaired driving published last October and the full report published in May 2018 stated that 10,497 people died in alcohol-involved crashes in 2016. The recently released report revised that number to 10,996.
Reporting Alcohol-Impaired Traffic Deaths
Traffic fatality data is tracked in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), and it isn’t unusual for numbers to change over time. According to a NHTSA media representative, “As the year goes on, numbers do change as additional data is entered into FARS by the States as they reconfirm the fatalities with actual death certificates.” Numbers can also go down if states find duplicate data.
However, adjustments to annual numbers are typically very slight. For example, NHTSA originally reported 10,265 drunk driving deaths for 2015 and eventually revised that number to 10,280—a change of about 0.1%. In comparison, the 2016 numbers were revised upward by nearly 5%.
The change also means that between 2015 and 2016, drunk driving deaths jumped nearly 7% instead of the 1.7% increase originally reported. That amounts to nearly two additional deaths per day on average due to alcohol-impaired driving compared to the previous year.
A Dangerous Trend?
When viewed along with stats from the past 10 years, both 2016 and 2017 stand out as particularly deadly periods on America’s roadways when it comes to alcohol-impaired crashes. After years of progress, with drunk driving deaths hovering near or even below 10,000 annually, fatalities from alcohol-impaired driving over the last two years were the highest the nation has experienced in nearly a decade.
As the following graph illustrates, the U.S. must continue to invest in and implement proven solutions to target drunk driving.
Read the full report: Alcohol-Impaired Driving: 2017 Data.