Baltimore Traffic Accident Update: Reviewing the Statistical Danger of Meeting a Drunken Driver in Maryland

As Baltimore auto accident attorneys, we are always at odds with the actuaries and statistics people, not because we don’t believe the numbers, but because it’s a hard pill to swallow that X-number of innocent people will be injured in car and trucking-related accidents from one year to the next. Unlike those who tally only numbers, as Maryland personal injury lawyers, we are all too familiar with the pain and suffering of our clients.

This brings up an interesting topic that many have touched on over the years; that of drunken driving accidents, injury and fatal, which happen more than anyone would like to admit. Among the top candidates for senseless traffic collisions has to be drunken driving wrecks. This category of car, truck and motorcycle collision is by far the most preventable, since it usually involves a driver who more or less chose to drive in an impaired state.

Truly, victims and families of those killed in DWI and DUI car crashes must live with the memory for the rest of their lives; knowing that the death of their loved one in a sometimes terrible car or truck wreck need no have happened at all if it wasn’t for the thoughtless consumption of alcohol, or the reckless use of prescription or illicit drugs.

We’re told by many authorities that drunk driving arrest rates are down across the country, and by association the number of crashes have dropped as well. But the question that comes to mind amid all this “good” news is whether or not people are drinking and driving less.

Anyone who has ever attended a holiday get-together has seen more than one individual drink more than his or her share of beer, wine or hard liquor, only to excuse themselves at some point, grab their car keys and drive home. Was that person legally drunk? Does it even matter considering that even a couple drinks can negatively impact one’s ability to react quickly or even think straight during the trip home, much less act accordingly in an emergency situation.

The authors of Freaknomics have provided the public with a new way to look at the statistics of drunk driving, not to mention other areas of life, which may cause some people to sit up and take notice. By using statistics to assess risk of injury and death from traffic accidents caused by drinking and driving, the authors raise questions that challenge many widely held assumptions.

Since drunken driving is a significant risk factor when it comes to car accidents, it may be good to look at the frequency and rates of DWIs and DUIs across the country. The good news, of course, is that from 1982 (when alcohol-related roadway fatalities totaled a shade over 1.6 per 100-million driving miles) to 2007 (when fatalities equaled just over 0.4 per 100 million) there has statistically been a 75 percent drop in fatalities based on miles driven. That sounds pretty good and it’s likely a result of better driver education, stiffer DWI-related penalties, tighter enforcement, and (of late) economic impact, as well.

According to the Freakonomics folks, there is a notable disconnect between our general perception of drunk driving in the U.S. While many people are content to believe, based on the remarkable and aforementioned statistics, that we have bridled the serious threat known as the drunken driver, there is still evidence that drunk driving laws are constantly being broken; right in front of our own eyes. We’ll wager that more than one person reading this noticed at least one vehicle weaving in the lane ahead of them during the holidays; does that mean we accept those violators who reside in the margins?

Based earlier studies not too out of date, there are around 75,000 bars in the U.S. The Freakonomics approach to this statistic goes something like this: How many people believe that every person who walks into one of those thousands of bars each day takes a cab home at the end of the night? Do they all have designated drivers?

Consider that, according to a study conducted not long ago, the average person who is arrested for drunken driving has previously driven drunk without being caught a total of 87 times. As we have explained in a previous entry, most any amount of alcohol impairs one’s driving abilities. Is driving even slightly impaired (not legally drunk, of course) worth the risk? The tacit response, based on various studies would, appear to be “Yes.” And that’s really something to think about.

Drunk Driving: Is the Glass Half-Empty?,, April 27, 2010

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