Despite the efforts of national and local leaders, drunk driving remains a serious problem on Pennsylvania’s streets, roads and highways. Harsh legal penalties haven’t prevented thousands of Pennsylvanians from hitting the road drunk, and that’s led to incalculable heartbreak for the victims of drunk driving.
In 2014, 7,265 people suffered severe injury at the hands of drunk drivers in Pennsylvania. 333 passengers, drivers and pedestrians lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes. Here’s a look at the latest statistics that put a spotlight on this major issue.
Drunk Driving Statistics 2014: Pennsylvania
In 2014, the last year for which the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has released data, 10,550 auto crashes were found to be alcohol-related. That was nearly 9% of the 121,317 total traffic accidents reported for the year. That number actually represents a significant decrease from the previous year. In 2013, 11,041 crashes were alcohol-related.
In fact, the last five years have seen a gradual decrease in the number of accidents involving drunk driving:
|Year||Drunk Driving Crashes|
Those numbers should give us some hope, but alcohol-related crashes continue to be a leading cause of death and serious injury. While only 9% of the total accidents in Pennsylvania involved alcohol, those drunk driving crashes led to a full 28% of all deaths suffered in traffic accidents.
Drunk drivers seem to be at greatest risk for suffering fatal injuries. 72% of the people killed in alcohol-related crashes were drunk drivers themselves. Another 15% of the total fatalities were occupants riding in the cars of intoxicated drivers.
Who Is Most Likely To Drive Drunk?
Men, by a long stretch. In 2014, nearly 3 out of every 4 drunk drivers who caused a crash were male. Drunk drivers also tend to be young, between the ages of 21 and 35. After 35, the rate of alcohol-related crashes decreases sharply:
|Age Of Driver||Number Of Drunk Drivers Involved In Crashes|
|16 – 20||667|
|21 – 25||2,386|
|26 – 30||1,612|
|31 – 35||1,222|
|36 – 40||888|
|41 – 45||878|
|46 – 50||817|
|51 – 55||747|
|56 – 60||503|
|61 – 65||297|
|66 – 70||142|
Significant improvements, however, are becoming apparent among drivers under the age of 21. Of the total drivers between 16 and 20 who died in car accidents, 13% had been drinking. In 2013, 19% of the drivers under 21 killed in crashes were drunk at the time of their accident.
Less improvement was seen among drivers between the ages of 21 and 25. A shocking 43% were drunk during their fatal crashes, only 1 percentage point lower than the previous year.
When Do Drinking Drivers Cause Accidents?
While the majority (more than 60%) of all car accidents occur during the day, 71.5% of the crashes that involved alcohol took place at night. In short, your 3 times more likely to be hurt by a drunk driver after the sun sets.
As you’d expect, holidays see a major uptick in alcohol-related crashes. More than 40% of the accidents on or around holidays involve drunk drivers. Independence Day and the days preceding Thanksgiving were most dangerous in 2014, with 153 and 154 alcohol-related accidents respectively.
Teenage Drunk Driving Statistics
If the DOT’s statistics are any measure, drivers under the legal drinking age tend to stay sober behind the wheel. That’s true even for those teen drivers involved in accidents. More than 22,500 drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 got into car accidents in 2014, but only 3% of them had been drinking at the time.
Nationwide, the level of teenage drunk driving has plummeted as well. Since 1991, the amount of teens who drink and drive has dropped more than 50%, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
For Pennsylvania’s part, the improvement is likely connected to the state’s underage drinking law, which suspends an underage drinker’s driving license – whether or not they were behind the wheel when they got caught. In 2012, even stiffer penalties were enacted, including a maximum of $1,000 for a second offense.
Driver Intoxication Is A Serious Threat In Pennsylvania
Now more than ever, Pennsylvania’s drivers must struggle to focus on the road, rather than the ever-present distractions they find behind the wheel. Some of these distractions are new, and our state’s legislature is still battling to manage their influence on driving. Cell phones have become a growing cause for concern. While Pennsylvania has already banned active forms of cell phone use, like sending texts, taking calls or simply checking your messages is still legal.
But as we’ve seen, the most pressing danger to other drivers may be as old as human history. Drunk driving is a serious crime, one that threatens dozens of innocent lives every day. Driving smart, and knowing when to get behind the wheel and when to stay home, continue to be our best safeguards against harming ourselves or another driver.