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Long term trend continues to show decline in drunk driving fatalities

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the latest available traffic fatality statistics for 2016 which showed an increase in the overall number of people killed on our nation’s roadway. According to NHTSA, 37,461 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, an increase of 5.6 percent from 35,485 in 2015. Additionally, NHTSA reported an estimated 20,163 lives were saved due to the use of child restraints, seat belts, front air bags, motorcycle helmets and minimum drinking age laws.

While safety initiatives and vehicle technologies to address drunk driving have significantly contributed to the reduction of lives lost over the years, the number of drunk driving fatalities increased 1.7 percent from 10,320 in 2015 to 10,497 in 2016. Drunk driving fatalities accounting for 28 percent of all traffic fatalities, a decrease of one percent from 2015 to 2016. Despite this noted increase in 2016 the long-term trend remains downward, with drunk driving fatalities declining 20 percent over the past decade and 50 percent since record keeping began in 1982.

The number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased 2.2 percent in 2016 and resulted in a 1.18 fatality rate per 100 million VMT (a 2.6 percent increase), the highest reported rate in nearly a decade. Additionally, there were other human choice factors impacting motor vehicle fatalities. In 2016, speeding accounting for 27 percent of total fatal crashes, distracted driving (9 percent), and drowsy driving (two percent). Though the 2016 numbers are not yet available, NHTSA's most recent National Roadside Survey showed a significant increase in drug-impaired driving.

Any life lost in a traffic fatality is one too many especially due to preventable human choices behind the wheel. These latest statistics remind us there is still more work to be done to keep our roads free from impaired drivers. In 2016, brought together nearly 40 traffic safety, advocacy, and health organizations together to spread the word, that together, we can #EndImpairedDriving.

Maureen Dalbec, Vice President of Research at, and her husband are proud parents of two college age children. In her free time she enjoys running and swimming and occasionally competing in triathlons as well as volunteering in her community.

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