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Drunk Drivers and Missouri Fatal Crashes

With fewer drivers on the road, the number of people killed in car crashes continues to climb in Missouri.

Among the changes imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic since March is less crowded roadways. More people can’t or are reluctant to leave their homes due to the potential for infection, which translates into fewer people driving in Missouri and all across the country.

Yet, in June the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported that the number of people killed in motor vehicle accidents statewide is up some 11% compared to this time last year. By early July the MSHP revised that to a 13% increase.  In April the MSHP reported a 4% increase in fatal car crashes over 2019.

So there’s been no slowing down of catastrophic traffic accidents in Missouri.

Speeding Drivers in Missouri

One reason Missouri law enforcement gave in April was a rash of speeders.  Careless drivers, faced with an unusual amount of open road, saw it as an opportunity to put the pedal to the metal.

Another possible contributing factor to the increase in Missouri’s deadly car crashes is drinking and driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in June released a report on drunken driving (“State Alcohol-Impaired-Driving Estimates”).  It is built upon 2018 statistics, the most recent year for finalized data.

Drunk Drivers Involved in a Quarter of Missouri’s Car Crash Deaths

According to the report, more than one-quarter (26%) of those killed on Missouri’s roads in 2018 involved a crash with a driver who had a BAC of .08 or higher – legally drunk.

The number of Missouri drivers well above the DWI threshold also was significant. Drivers who had a BAC of .15 or higher killed 160 people in Missouri in 2018; about 17% of all those who died in the state’s car crashes that year.

If the pandemic continues as is, or comes back stronger in another wave, will there be more drunk drivers in Missouri in the months ahead?

The relationship between COVID-19 and alcohol consumption may need more research, but there is one troubling cause-and-effect finding so far.

In May,  APCO Insight polled 1,000 Americans and found that 23% said they were drinking more alcohol while under stay-at-home orders.  A little more than one-third (35%) said they were drinking about the same.

And the amount of people who said they had consumed alcohol over the last 30 days rose from 71% to 79% compared to the same time last year.

Per the survey, 71% of those who said they were drinking less during COVID-19 attributed it to bar and restaurant closings, and the overall inability to go out.

Missouri’s governor lifted his stay-at-home orders in early May, so it’s not inconceivable there are more drunk drivers on the road now. This could help explain the jump in Missouri’s motor vehicle accident deaths from 4% to the current 13% compared to last year.

If you were seriously hurt or had a family member killed in a car crash with a drunk driver, contact a car accident lawyer to bring all those responsible for your losses to account.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog July 13, 2020