Driving while holding a beer bottleDrunk driving is the biggest single cause of traffic deaths. It kills 30 people every day in the United States, or one person every 48 minutes. In 2017, at least one alcohol-impaired driver was involved in 29% of all traffic fatalities nationwide. The percentages were slightly lower in Minnesota, where just under a quarter of traffic deaths involved an intoxicated driver, and Iowa, where that was the case in 27% of fatalities. Wisconsin, which does not have a dram shop law imposing liability on bars for serving intoxicated patrons, has a percentage of alcohol-related crashes higher than the national average, 31%. In total nationwide, 10,874 people who died in 2017 were in accidents involving drunk driving, where at least one driver was over the legal limit of .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

If you have been injured in a car accident ** involving a drunk driver or have lost a loved one in a drunk driving crash, it is crucial that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. A good car accident lawyer or wrongful death attorney will obtain evidence necessary to establish that the other driver was intoxicated at the time of the crash, and will work with the insurance companies directly, so you can focus on recovery and rebuilding your life. A drunk driving crash lawyer also will investigate whether any bars or liquor stores are liable in the crash because they illegally served an intoxicated driver.

Around 111 million U.S. adults admit to driving after drinking too much. 85% of drinking and driving episodes are reported by binge drinkers. Officers are able to make DWI arrests of only about 1% of those self-reporting they drive under the influence. This means that a staggering number of impaired drivers are unimpeded as they drive along the road with the rest of us.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is most dangerous to the drunk driver: 61% of those who died in 2017 were impaired drivers. Most of these drivers were significantly over the legal limit (.08 BAC in all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico). In fact, 68% had a BAC of .15 or higher.

These drivers are reckless in every way, not only by getting behind a wheel, but by often doing so without wearing a seat belt. 64% of drunk drivers killed in passenger vehicles weren’t wearing a seat belt.* 27% of all impaired drivers in fatal crashes were operating motorcycles, compared with 21% driving cars and 20% driving pickup trucks, SUVs or vans.

To repeat, alcohol-impaired drivers don’t harm only themselves. Much too often, it is the people in other vehicles, pedestrians, or bicyclists who are the victims of drunk drivers. Of those who died in 2017 alcohol-related crashes, 28% were vehicle occupants and 11% were not in a vehicle. Tragically, one in five children (14 and younger) killed in car accidents died as a result of a drunk driving crash. More than half of the children who died were in the car with the drunk driver, while almost a third were occupants of other vehicles and 13% were not in a vehicle.

Any level of intoxication is unsafe for drivers. In 2017, 1,837 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes where drivers had BACs of .01 to .07, below the limit of legal impairment of .08. Even low levels of alcohol intake affect the body: Visual function and coordination decline, response times slow, judgment is impaired, and alertness is depressed, for example.

Fortunately, drunk driving is declining. DWI fatalities decreased by one-third over the past three decades and by 1.1% from just 2016 to 2017. Still, too many people continue to drive while under the influence. Nationally, 1.9% admit they drive after drinking too much. In Minnesota, 2.4% admit to doing so, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The percentages increase in Iowa and Wisconsin, where 3.1% of the population of each state say they’ve driven after drinking too much.

Suk Law Firm has focused on wrongful death and personal injury cases since 1988. If you’ve lost a loved one to a drunk driver, or have been injured in an accident and an intoxicated driver was at fault, contact us today. We’ve recovered more than $125 million on behalf of clients, and we are ready to assist you.

Besides Rochester, we serve the following major southeast Minnesota cities: Red Wing, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna, and all outlying communities, as well as the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. We also serve the Iowa cities of Mason City, Charles City, Osage, Spencer, Garner, Forest City, and Northwood and the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Viroqua, River Falls, Ellsworth, Whitehall, and Black River Falls.

*For drivers for whom restraint use is known.

**A note about language:

Federal agencies involved in traffic safety have banned use of the word “accident” for more than 20 years, and with good reason. However, we use the word “accident” on our website, even though we know it has implications that run contrary to our professional thinking and training, because we recognize that “accident” is the word most commonly used in online searches when people are looking for help after being injured in a crash. If you’d like more information about this topic, please see our blog, “Car Accident or Car Crash?”


Traffic Safety Facts, 2017 data, NHTSA

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Centers for Disease Control: Sobering Facts

Centers for Disease Control: Vital Signs