The well-known organization, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), has been leading the fight to save lives and prevent injuries caused by drunk drivers. In 2006, MADD started what it called the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. The campaign is working, as fatalities caused by drunk drivers have decreased by greater than 25% since the campaign began. 9,878 people were killed and approximately 350,000 were injured by drunk drivers in 2011, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This was the first time since NHTSA began collecting data that there were less than 10,000 fatalities. When MADD was first founded, there were more than 22,000 drunk driving fatalities each year.
While we rejoice in the fact that the numbers are going down, the battle is long from being over. 9,878 deaths is still too many, and each death impacts not only the victim, but family, friends, classmates and others. The yearly price tag of drunk driving runs into the billions. Proof that there remains more work to be done can be found in the preliminary statistics regarding the first half of 2012. Regrettably, these statistics showed a 7% increase in traffic deaths related to drunk drivers. While the year-end statistics have not yet been released, if fatalities continued to occur at that rate, that means an additional 700 people will have been killed by drunk drivers last year.
Tragically, approximately 1/3 of all drunk driving incidents, ranging from arrests, car crashes, deaths, and injuries, are caused by repeat offenders. We potentially share the highways with approximately 2 million people who have 3 or more drunk driving offenses. That’s one of the primary reasons that states have attempted to crack down on drunk drivers by enacting stiffer penalties for offenders and especially, for repeat offenders. The State of Georgia can take pride in the fact that it has the 3rd lowest percentage of traffic deaths that are DUI related in the USA according to the 2011 Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The State of South Carolina is one of the worst states when it comes to DUI fatalities, ranking 46th among the 50 states. Taking away the driver’s licenses of repeat offenders isn’t always enough, as more than 50% of them will drive anyway. MADD and other organizations are supporting research into various forms of technology that could help eliminate drunk driving. An example of technology being studied includes a system that can read a driver’s blood alcohol concentration and lock the ignition system, which would stop drunk driving offenders before they repeat their crimes.
While the efforts to reduce drunk driving have been focused on enacting stronger criminal laws and imposing stricter penalties, victims should not lose sight of their rights under our Civil Justice System. If you or a loved has been injured by a drunk driver, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver and under certain circumstances, the owner of the automobile that the drunk driver was operating. You have the right to recover monetary damages related to your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. You may also have the right to seek and recover what are known as punitive damages. These are damages that are designed to punish a wrongdoer and deter that person from engaging in the same conduct in the future. In the case of a wrongful death caused by drunk driver, the victim’s family has the right to sue to recover damages representing the full value of the victim’s life. The attorneys at Suthers & Harper have represented victims and families of victims who were injured and killed by drunk drivers. The firm remains committed to doing its part to make our roads safer.