Sadly, while overall traffic deaths in the United States decreased slightly from 2005 to 2006, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), alcohol-related traffic deaths rose from 17,525 in 2005 to 17,941 in 2006. Of these fatal "accidents", 13,613 in 2005 and 13,990 in 2006 involved a driver with a .08 BAC or higher. Furthermore, alcohol-related traffic fatalities are at an all time high since 1992.
Sadder yet, drunk driving accidents and fatalities are entirely preventable. Many states have chosen to send a strong message to owners and employees of bars, nightclubs, establishments and even private homes in which alcohol was served as well as to their patrons with “dram shop” laws.
Dram shop laws allow the owners and employees of these establishments to be held negligent in the event they provide excessive alcohol to a guest or patron and then allow the patron to drive off without regard for the potential consequences. In some cases, every establishment in which the drunk driver consumed an alcoholic beverage was held liable for a resulting accident.
In an auto accident caused by extreme negligence such as drunk driving, punitive damages may be assessed on all parties at fault. Punitive damages can result in far greater compensation to the injured party than that granted for the actual losses. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to the actual damages, which may include:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Emotional distress
Continuing efforts by governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) have not been able to reverse the disturbing trend of increasing alcohol-related accidents resulting in injury or death. And despite the 1.4 million drunk driving arrests in the U.S. each year, this may not be so difficult to understand when one considers that:
- Ethyl alcohol is by far the most commonly abused drug in the United States.
- According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the average age at which Americans begin drinking regularly is 15.9 years old.
- By the time they reach the eighth grade, nearly 50 percent of adolescents have had at least one drink, and over 20 percent report having gotten "drunk."
- About 20 percent of 8th graders and nearly 50 percent of 12th graders have consumed alcohol within the last 30 days.
- Nearly 30 percent of 12th graders report drinking on three or more occasions per month.
Despite these numbers, there is never an excuse for anyone to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after having consumed alcoholic beverages. Technologies are being developed to prevent this from happening in the future. But this is no consolation for a recent victim or victim's family in a drunk driving accident.
If you or a loved one has been killed or injured in an alcohol-related accident, you should seek aggressive legal representation to recover the maximum compensation possible, and to send a message to lawmakers that drunk driving is plainly not tolerable.
Contact our Personal Injury Lawyers and Attorneys today to find an experienced auto accident lawyer near you.