Driving a car is one of the first milestones that is reached on the road to adulthood. The freedom feels good. Cranking up the radio, rolling down the windows and driving too fast is something that most of us experienced as new drivers.
Americans love affair with the automobile has come at a fatal cost, however. In 1899, 26 people died from automobile accidents. In 1972, deaths from automobile accidents hit an all time high of 54,589. In 2006 41,648 died in car crashes. In 2008, the National Safety Council announced that the death rate from motor vehicles hit its lowest rate since records have been kept in the 1920's. Even though teens drive less than all other age groups other than the oldest drivers, they have high rates of fatal and non-fatal crash rates. They are four times more likely to crash than drivers twenty years of age or older. In fact, 33 percent of all teen deaths between 13-19 years of age are due to automobile crashes. Some states are considering graduated licenses in an effort to reduce teenage automobile accidents.
According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, the number of drinking drivers with BACs at or above the current legal limit has declined dramatically. One measure examined drinking behaviors on weekend nights, a time frame where drinking and driving is often happening. This measure revealed that in 1973, 7.5 percent of drivers had BACs at or above 0.08. In 2007, the rate for the same measure had fallen by 71 percent to 2.2 percent of drivers at or above the legal limit of 0.08.
Another important finding of the study was that the percentage of drinking drivers that included any positive BAC had also declined dramatically. Males were nearly twice as likely to drive while impaired as female drivers. The rate of impaired rivers was nearly five times as high during late nighttime; 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. Motorcycle riders were nearly twice as likely to be impaired, at 5.6 percent as passenger car drivers at 2.3 percent. Pickup truck drivers were the second most likely vehicle type to have an impaired driver at 3.3 percent. The rate of underage drinkers, 16 to 21 years of age, in fatal crashes with a BAC of 0.08 or higher decreased dramatically from 47.7 percent in 1973 to 23.1 percent in 1996. The period between 1997 and 2007 saw a slight increase in the rate from 23.1 to 24.1 percent.