Texas led the nation in the number of drunk driving deaths in 2013, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). There were 1,337 drunk driving fatalities, or almost 40 percent of all traffic accident deaths that year, according to the MADD website. This represented an increase of 3.6 percent over the previous year. Moreover, Texas frequently leads the U.S. in the number of drunk driving accidents and fatalities.
Of course, Texas is a big state, and simply counting the numbers is not completely fair. It is more accurate to count the rates or percentages. CBS News reported that Texas drivers ranked 11th when they were asked whether they had driven while impaired. In short, determining rank and position in the dubious drunk driving sweepstakes depends entirely on how you measure it.
One bit of good news: The percentage of road fatalities caused by drunk driving in Texas appears to be declining. In 1982, for example, 66 percent of traffic fatalities were alcohol-related. In 2012, the number had declined to 44 percent. Of course, as noted above, how “alcohol-related” is defined and how the percentages are calculated vary. However, it is almost certainly safe to say that the percentage of alcohol-related traffic fatalities is going down.
On an individual level, this does not mean very much. If you or a friend or family member was seriously injured or killed in a drunk driving accident, the fact that this is happening less than before is little consolation. For example, the Houston Chronicle recently reported on an accident that killed the driver, who had been out drinking to celebrate his birthday, and seriously injured two of his four passengers.
Earlier in October, troopers reported that a man showing signs of intoxication at the scene hit a pickup truck after losing control of his vehicle, seriously injuring a father and son in the truck.
In August, a Harris County man subsequently charged with intoxication manslaughter killed another driver when he made a U-turn and was hit by an ongoing vehicle. The news story indicated that the charges might be increased because the man, who was not injured, was driving with his 4-year-old daughter unrestrained in the back seat.
Another contributing factor to fatal and serious traffic accidents is the number of people driving while taking drugs – both prescription and illegal. Less attention is paid to drivers who use pain pills and other powerful medications that can impair judgment and reaction time and then get in their cars and cause serious and fatal crashes. However, most authorities agree that the number of traffic crashes involving drugs is on the rise.
People can argue over the accuracy of the statistics and point out that drugs are just as dangerous as alcohol when it comes to driving. However, the bottom line is that people who use substances such as alcohol, legal narcotic medications and illegal drugs are significantly increasing the chances of seriously killing or injuring someone if they get behind the wheel.