I write a blog about the car accidents that occur in Georgia. In my recent legal blog entries, I have been looking at statistics about fatal car crashes in Atlanta, looking for patterns that might help us decrease the number of lives lost on Atlanta roadways. As a city, we need to pay attention to how, where and why people are being killed on our streets, so that we can talk about how we can make our roads safer. Today I want to look at the statistics that the government tracks on how many accidents are caused by drivers who were drunk or DUI (driving under the influence), and where those accidents are most likely to happen. The data suggests that DUI accidents are more likely to occur at intersections, and more likely to involve more than one vehicle, than are accidents where neither driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The data I have been reviewing is provided by a database maintained by the federal agency, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA"). The government compiles data about deadly car wrecks from all over the United States into a database known as FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System). I have been reviewing the 2009 data available for Atlanta, Georgia at city-data.com. I represent people in wrongful death lawsuits here in Atlanta, for example, when someone loses a loved one in a car accident. Of course, in raw numbers more accidents occur in the Atlanta area than anywhere else in Georgia, since so many people live and drive here, and since the traffic is particularly heavy.
From the data available for wrecks that occurred in Atlanta in 2009, we can conclude:
1. Twelve of the 45 wrecks in which someone was killed - something just above 1/4, or 27% -- involved situations where the police observed that one of the drivers was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
2. Six of these twelve car accidents, or 50%, were single-vehicle accidents. Five of the remaining six deadly Atlanta auto wrecks involved two cars. Only one involved three cars in the crash.
3. In one of the twelve wrecks a pedestrian was killed. In the other 11, either a driver or a passenger died, although it was not clear whether the drunk driver or the other driver died, or in which car the passengers was riding.
4. In each of the twelve DUI crashes that involved a death, one person was killed in the car accident. None of the vehicles involved several people being killed in the car accident.
5. One unusual fact was that a significantly higher number of DUI wrecks were at intersections. Of the 45 Atlanta car accidents in which someone died, 20 of the wrecks -- 44 % -- were along a single highway or road, while 25 of the 45 - 66 % of the fatal accidents -- were at intersections. By contrast, a a full 9 of 12 of the accidents that involved DUI drivers occurred at intersections. So, while 66% of all fatal car crashes in Atlanta occur at intersections, 75% of the ones that involve a driver who was drinking occur at intersections. Clearly, then, intersections are riskier places for drivers who are under the influence, and for passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers who may be in the car or in those intersections.
6. Six of 26 single-vehicle accidents - 23 % -- involved a drunken driver. By contrast, across all fatal car wrecks in Atlanta, 26 of 45 -more than 50% -- involved one vehicle. In other words, DUI accidents are more likely to involve a second vehicle. The difference is probably accounted for by the fact that the drunk driving accidents happened in disproportionate numbers at intersections.