WASHINGTON – Drunken-driving deaths declined slightly across the nation in 2005, and the rate of drunken-driving deaths fell in 23 states last year, transportation officials said Friday.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 23 states and Puerto Rico had a decrease in the fatality rate for crashes involving a driver with an illegal blood alcohol level of at least 0.08. The death rate involving those circumstances increased in 21 states and the District of Columbia and remained flat in six other states.
The government said 12,945 motorists died in a crash involving a legally drunk driver in 2005, compared with 13,099 in 2004. Alcohol-related fatalities also fell during that span: from 16,885 in 2005 to 16,919 in 2004.
"These statistics confirm what every police officer patrolling America's streets already knows: that irresponsible use of alcohol and driving are a tragic and toxic combination that robs people of their potential and families of their loved ones," said Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.
All 50 states have a 0.08 standard with Minnesota's adoption of the law last year.
States with lower fatality rates involving at least one driver with an illegal blood-alcohol level were: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
States with higher rates were: Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington state, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
The six states with the same rates were: Alaska, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Transportation officials said they were spending $7 million for advertising during the December holiday season as part of its "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest" campaign.