The final 2013 crash data was recently published by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The data reveals that in California, in 2013, there were 3000 total crash related fatalities, 29% of which involved alcohol-impaired driving. As compared to 2012, the number of fatal and injury crashes in the United States dipped only slightly, both absolutely and per vehicle mile traveled (VMT). The relative distribution between rural and urban remained unchanged. A whopping 49% of passenger vehicle occupant fatalities were unrestrained. And 41% of motorcyclist fatalities were not helmeted. There were 4,735 pedestrian fatalities in the United States in 2013 (13 per day) and 66,000 pedestrian injuries (181 per day). The statistics for bicyclists are equally sobering, with 743 killed and 48,000 injured.
Since distraction is a factor in a large percentage of auto injury accidents, our office encourages viewing of the following AAA-produced educational video regarding the causes, effects, and prevention of cognitive distracted driving, in addition to the video posted on our car accident lawyer web page.
Cognitive distraction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOshfzVsUlU&index=13&list=PL422FE5F91658622A
Update: 6/12/14: Driver Distracted by GPS Crashes Head-On into Muni Bus on Laguna Honda Street in SF Injuring Four: http://abc7news.com/traffic/driver-distracted-by-gps-crashes-into-muni-bus/112958/
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that states reduce the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) threshold for DUI from 0.08 to 0.05. Almost one-third of all traffic fatalities in the United States involve drunk driving, defined as BAC of at least 0.08. Thousands more fatalities and serious injury accidents involve alcohol impairment that does not reach the BAC 0.08 level. This would bring the states’ standards (0.08, mandated more than a decade ago) in line with the 0.05 standard which currently exists in most of the industrialized world.
The NTSB’s recommendations are aimed at further reducing traffic accidents, especially among young drivers, and are implicitly aimed at the social drinker as opposed to the hardcore drinker. According to the Board, drivers with a BAC of 0.05 are 38% more likely to be in an accident, and those with a BAC of 0.08 are 169% more likely to be in an accident. While most fatalities in the U.S. are caused by drivers under the age of 26, a higher percentage of the drivers in this age group involved in fatal accidents have alcohol in their system as compared to other age groups, suggesting that young drivers and their passengers have the most to benefit from a lowering of the BAC legal limit.
As a lawyer who represents accident victims of alcohol impairment, I see the devastation caused by alcohol related accidents and applaud the Board’s recommendations as a sensible and reasonable step to reduce the carnage that I unfortunately witness in my practice.
In San Francisco’s fourth pedestrian fatality of 2013, a drunk driver has been arrested for killing 17-year-old Lowell High School student Hanren Chang on Sloat Boulevard near Vale Ave late this past Saturday night, March 3, 2013. Ms. Chang was reportedly walking within a crosswalk, crossing the multi-lane Sloat Blvd when she was struck, at a location lacking any traffic controls.
This accident exemplifies the deadly combination of drunk driving and pedestrians. Nationwide, approximately 30% of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities involve alcohol impairment (blood alcohol content greater than .08), and pedestrian accidents account for approximately 15% of all traffic fatalities.
Some have raised the question of whether San Francisco is too lax regarding DUI enforcement and conviction, claiming that 40% of all traffic fatalities in this city involve alcohol consumption.
Sloat Blvd has seen prior pedestrian deaths and injuries in recent years, and some improvements have been made to slow the speed of traffic on that street.
Update: On 6/21/14, a drunk driver critically injured a 33-year-old Pacifica woman Pedestrian on San Pedro Road.
While the devastation caused by intoxicated and distracted driving cannot be overstated, there is an increasing awareness of the huge numbers of deaths and injuries being caused by driving while drowsy. Drowsiness has a globally negative impact on driving performance, slowing reaction time, decreasing situational awareness, and impairing judgment.
According to the NHTSA, drowsiness is reported to cause 40,000 injuries and more than 1,500 deaths each year in the United States, and the true numbers of deaths and injuries are likely much higher as drowsy driving is underreported as a cause of accidents. Although drowsy driving is common among all groups of drivers, the persons most at risk are drivers between ages 16 to 29 (especially males), shift workers whose sleep is disrupted by working at night or working long or irregular hours, and people with untreated sleep apnea or narcolepsy. Solutions proposed by the NHTSA, while primarily in the area of public education, also include such measures as increasing use of rumble strips which can wake drivers and alert them that they are veering off course. Posted on the NHTSA’s site are the NHTSA’s research and recommendations on drowsy driving.
From a legal perspective, driving while drowsy, while usually more difficult to prove than intoxicated driving, may constitute negligence and be deemed the cause of an accident, rendering the drowsy driver liable.