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Impaired crashes on New York roads is an ongoing problem

The involvement of alcohol and/or drugs continues to be a serious issue in fatal crashes, with more than two out of five fatalities (44%) being alcohol or drug-related. Continuing efforts are needed to improve the effectiveness of public awareness initiatives that are designed to educate the motoring public on the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

In June 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that of the 36,560 traffic fatalities in 2018, an estimated 10,511 people (29%) were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. Because of concerns these findings have raised, the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee provided funding for the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research to update its earlier study on the involvement of alcohol and/or drugs in fatal and personal injury (F&PI) crashes on New York roadways.

Despite year-to-year fluctuations, the number of impaired fatal crashes dropped 12% between 2015 and 2019 (431 vs. 378). Impaired fatal crashes represented 38% to 51% of all fatal crashes during the years 2015 to 2019.

As might be expected, 42% of the police-reported impaired F&PI crashes in 2019 occurred on weekends (21% on each of Saturday and Sunday), while 58% of the police-reported impaired F&PI crashes occurred between 6 p.m. and 3 a.m. Furthermore, the study revealed that more than half (51%) of the impaired F&PI crashes in 2019 involved multiple vehicles and 35% involved a single vehicle. A pedestrian or bicyclist was involved in 14% of the impaired F&PI crashes.

In 2019, men were overrepresented in impaired F&PI crashes, with 75% of the impaired drivers being men, compared to 51% of New York state licensed drivers being male. In contrast, women are underrepresented in impaired F&PI crashes, with 25% of the impaired drivers being women, compared to 49% of the state’s licensed drivers being female.

Young drivers aged 21 to 29 were overrepresented in impaired F&PI crashes in 2019, compared to licensed drivers in that age group (30% vs. 14%, respectively). Drivers aged 30 to 39 were also overrepresented (27% vs. 18% of licensed drivers in that age group). Drivers ages 60 and over were underrepresented in impaired F&PI crashes compared to licensed drivers (8% vs. 30%, respectively). Also interesting is that 4% of the impaired drivers in F&PI crashes in 2019 were under age 21. Although some of these drivers may have had only drugs in their system, the majority had alcohol, despite the fact that drivers this age are prohibited from drinking alcoholic beverages.

We have come a long way with changing attitudes about drinking and driving from decades ago, when drinking and driving was so prevalent. But the statistics from the most recent study shows that we still have a long way to go.

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