In Texas, The Alcohol Highway Safety Problem
The Safety Board has recognized for many years that traffic crashes are one of this nation’s most serious transportation safety problems. More than 90 percent of all transportation related deaths each year result from highway crashes. Approximately 41 percent of the highway deaths nationwide are alcohol-related. Unfortunately over the last five years, the proportion of alcohol-related fatalities has not been improving and increased last year. The trend for the last five years has been in the wrong direction.
In 2001, impaired driving resulted in 17,448 alcohol-related fatalities nationwide, with hard core drinking drivers involved in almost 40 percent of these deaths. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates the cost of each fatality is over $977,000; thus alcohol-related fatal crashes cost society over $17 billion each year. We believe this to be a very conservative estimate. While the affected individual covers some of these costs, overall, those not directly involved in crashes pay for nearly three-quarters of all crash costs, primarily through insurance premiums, government paid health care costs, taxes, and travel delay. Clearly, much needs to be done to reduce this ongoing tragedy.
Here in Texas, 3,724 people died in traffic crashes in 2001, more than in any other state, except California (3,956). However, California has about 22 million licensed drivers, in comparison to the 13 million in Texas. Further, 1,789, or 48 percent, of those deaths were alcohol-related. That is well above the national average of 41 percent. Indeed, only in 8 states is the rate of alcohol involvement in traffic deaths is higher than in Texas.