SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 15 For the third year in a row, DUI deaths declined in California. The drop was 9.1 percent, from 1,132 in 2007 to 1,029 in 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The 2008 figure marks a total decrease of nearly 21 percent from the most recent high point in 2005.
Alcohol impaired deaths make up the largest category of overall vehicle fatalities. Overall fatalities declined by 14 percent, from 3,995 in 2007 to 3,434 in 2008. Total fatalities are at their lowest since 1975, when the federal government began compiling figures.
"With this third year of declines in DUI deaths, we can truly call it a trend, a trend of life saving importance," said Christopher J. Murphy, Director of the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). "Law enforcement, state and local agencies, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other safety advocates, and the people of California have come together to address this deadly problem and are now seeing the results. As positive as these figures are, though, we can never let up until we achieve our goal of zero deaths."
"This significant decline in traffic deaths is indeed heartening," said California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow. "The decrease in lives pointlessly lost can be traced back to hard, innovative work in education, enforcement, engineering and emergency medical services. Our primary objective remains to continue this trend and have more people make it home safe and alive each day."
Many different tactics have been used recently to attack the drunk driver problem, from increases in youth public awareness programs to hospital and jail based intervention programs to expanding prosecution and probation efforts. Officials point to increases in DUI checkpoints, the Avoid DUI Taskforces program and the Report Drunk Drivers - Call 911 campaign as being particularly beneficial.
While some of the decrease can be tied to the fewer number of miles traveled by the state's drivers in 2008, that decrease was only 3.4 percent nationally, compared to the 14 percent drop in deaths.
The one category that is bucking the trend is crashes involving motorcycles. Motorcycle deaths rose 8.1 percent, from 518 in 2007 to 560 in 2008. This negative trend goes back to 1998 when there were only 204 motorcycle fatalities, an increase of 175 percent in 11 years.
"Motorcycle safety is a rapidly emerging concern," said OTS Director Murphy. "These bikes are heavier, faster, and more difficult to control than ever before. Riders must get proper training, must wear proper protective gear, and must be extremely mindful of safety and avoiding dangerous situations."
To help counter the trend in motorcycle deaths, the CHP has instituted a new campaign to convince riders to take training classes through the California Motorcyclist Safety Program. The campaign also encourages car and truck drivers to be mindful of motorcycles in traffic.
For over two years California state, county, and local governments, as well as numerous advocate groups, businesses, community organizations and individuals, have been actively pursuing work on over 150 specific actions contained within the California Strategic Highway Safety Plan. The Plan is an unprecedented collaboration of those working across the entire spectrum of traffic safety, with the goal of significantly reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from traffic safety crashes.
SOURCE Office of Traffic Safety