According to a new report by the US Department of Transportation, the number of overall traffic fatalities reported in 2008 hit their lowest level since 1961, and drunk-driving fatalities declined by almost ten percent.
Drunk-driving fatalities are defined as crashes involving a driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher. According to the report, 11,773 people died as a result of alcohol-related vehicle accidents in 2008, compared with 13,041 in 2007.
The states that had the sharpest decrease were Arizona and New Mexico, with 21 percent and 20 percent drops, respectively. Both of these states have ignition interlock laws to keep offenders from starting their cars. Eleven states in the US currently have such laws.
The worst state for drunk-driving fatalities was Texas with 1,269 drunk-driving deaths in 2008. The advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving attributes this to “segments of the alcohol industry and lack of leadership from the legislature and other elected officials.” California was the second-worst state with 1,029 drunk-driving fatalities.
Aside from personal tragedies, drunk driving costs Americans $130 billion per year, according to a 2009 report from the Pacific Institute for Research & Evaluation.