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What Is the Leading Cause of Fatal Car Accidents?

December 22, 2021

Each year, more than 30,000 Americans lose their lives in car accidents. Tragically, most of these fatal car accidents are preventable. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly a third of all fatal car accidents in the United States are attributable to drunk driving. 

This makes drunk driving the leading cause of fatal car accidents in the U.S. This remains true even though the percentage of fatal accidents attributable to drunk driving has been on the decline in recent years. As the NHTSA explains: “Every day, about 28 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 52 minutes. In 2019, these deaths reached the lowest percentage since 1982 when NHTSA started reporting alcohol data — but still 10,142 people lost their lives. These deaths were all preventable.”

The car accident lawyers at the Karl Truman Law Office are committed to helping our clients move forward after a serious injury. We have built a reputation for excellence in accident cases throughout Kentucky and Indiana.

5 Important Facts about Fatal Drunk Driving Accidents

Drunk driving accidents are devastating for the victims’ families. Yet, despite the obvious risks of driving under the influence, people still choose to drink and drive. Here are five important facts about fatal drunk driving accidents: 

1. Even Minor Alcohol Intoxication is Enough to Be Dangerous

While a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% is the legal limit for adults over 21 in most states (including Kentucky and Indiana), even much lower levels of alcohol concentration can be dangerous. According to the NHTSA:

  • 0.02% BAC – Drivers with a BAC of 0.02% can experience loss of judgment, a decline in visual function, and a decline in the ability to multi-task. 
  • 0.05% BAC – Drivers with a BAC of 0.04% can begin to lose muscle control, experience a greater loss of judgment, and experience reduced alertness and inhibition. Reduced coordination and ability to respond to emergency situations can also occur at this level of impairment. 
  • 0.08% BAC – Drivers with a BAC of 0.08% will typically have poor muscle coordination, impaired perception, and a reduced ability to process information. Judgment, self-control, and reasoning all begin to decline rapidly at a BAC of 0.08%. 
  • 0.15% BAC – At a 0.15% BAC, drivers experience “[s]ubstantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and . . . necessary visual and auditory information processing.” Drivers at this level of impairment also have “[f]ar less muscle control than normal.” 

2. DUI Convictions Don’t Stop Drunk Drivers or Compensate Victims

Unfortunately, statistics show that DUI convictions don’t stop people from driving drunk. The NHTSA reports that impaired drivers who cause fatal car accidents are four times more likely to have prior DUI convictions than sober drivers who cause deadly collisions. 

Additionally, while DUI convictions can lead to files, jail time, and other penalties, they do not result in compensation for victims and their families. To recover financial compensation for a fatal drunk driving accident, the victim’s family must pursue a claim against the drunk driver (or the drunk driver’s insurance company) in civil court. 

3. Drunk Driving Constitutes “Negligence Per Se”

Pursuing a wrongful death claim in civil court requires evidence of negligence. Fortunately, drunk driving constitutes “negligence per se.” Basically, since drunk driving is illegal in Kentucky and Indiana, the simple fact that a person was driving drunk is enough to prove that he or she was being negligent. 

Even so, when pursuing a claim for a drunk driving accident, family members can expect the driver’s insurance company to put up a fight. Despite the well-known dangers of drunk driving and the laws that are in place to protect motorists and their families, filing a successful claim for a fatal drunk driving accident is not easy. As a result, it is extremely important for grieving family members to hire an experienced lawyer who can seek justice on their behalf. 

4. The Costs of Fatal Drunk Driving Accidents Can Be Devastating

From loss of the victim’s income to loss of the victim’s love and companionship, the costs of a fatal drunk driving accident can be devastating. Although no amount of money can truly compensate for losing a loved one too soon, filing a wrongful death claim is an important step in the recovery process. 

5. Drunk Drivers Can (and Should) Be Held Accountable

While filing a successful wrongful death claim can be challenging, drunk drivers can (and should) be held accountable. Grieving families deserve justice, and the laws in Kentucky and Indiana are designed to ensure that families get the closure they so desperately need. Families have up to a year to file a claim in Kentucky and up to two years to file a claim in Indiana, but they should seek help from an experienced fatal car accident lawyer as soon as possible. 

Talk to a Kentucky or Indiana Car Accident Lawyer for Free

If you have lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, we offer our sincere condolences, and we encourage you to let us help you through the recovery process. To speak with a car accident lawyer about your family’s legal rights in a free, no-obligation consultation, call our office in Louisville, Kentucky, at (502) 222-2222 or in Jeffersonville, Indiana, at (812) 282-8500.