Between 2003 and 2011, Pennsylvania was fourth highest in the nation for drunk driving fatalities, with 4,663 deaths reported in the period.
While the good news is that there has been a measurable decline since then in auto accidents of all kinds in Pennsylvania. The number of crashes reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) also dropped from 2018 to 2022. However, getting behind the wheel and on the road can still be the most dangerous part of one's day, especially on the weekends or on holidays. Last year, there were still nearly 116,000 reportable vehicle accidents (a high number that includes bicycles, motorcycles, and all other types of vehicles).
Unfortunately, one of the near-constants in the last five years is the number of people killed in alcohol-related crashes annually. Back in 2018, there were 331 drunk-driving-related deaths, 293 such deaths in 2020 despite lockdowns, and 320 DUI-related deaths in 2022. That’s still a rate of nearly one person dying each day because of drunk driving.
An Overview of DUI Accidents in 2022
On average, 24 accidents a day were due to a drunk driver, out of about 318 traffic crashes occurring each day. While drunk driving accidents accounted for less than 8% of the average crashes reported daily, over the course of last year, alcohol was a factor in 27% of all traffic deaths.
Drunk driving accidents are nearly five times more likely to result in fatal injuries than accidents that didn’t involve alcohol.
According to the 2022 numbers for Pennsylvania drunk driving accidents:
- 275 of the deaths in these accidents were in the drunk driver’s vehicle (either killing the drunk drivers themselves and/or passengers with them)
- 28 non-drinking drivers were killed by a drunk driver
- 12 non-drinking pedestrians were killed in DUI collisions
- In all, 320 deaths happened across 140 crashes
Outside of fatal accidents, there were a total of 8,683 crashes where a drunk driver was to blame. Of these, 3,998 accidents resulted in reportable injuries, injuring well over 5,000 people last year. On average, that means 13 to 15 people were nonfatally injured in drunk driving accidents each day in 2022.
When Is a Deadly Drunk Driving Accident More Likely to Happen?
According to 2022 data, just over 100 of these fatal accidents occurred between 8pm and midnight, while 94 occurred between midnight and 4am. This came out to 73% of drunk driving accidents happening while the sun was down, while 63% of deadly crashes occurred on weekends.
As may be expected, it’s not just weekends but holidays that also have notable numbers for drunk driving accidents. Though DUI crashes only account for 10% of accidents that occur during holiday weekends, 33% of the deaths that occur in holiday-weekend crashes involved alcohol. These fatalities and crashes were spread fairly evenly across New Years, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas weekends. That said, the weekend post-Thanksgiving accounted for 12.9% of deadly holiday crashes.
Who Drunk Drivers Are - by the Numbers
Of the drunk drivers who died, 41% of these drivers were 26 to 30, and the highest percentage of drunk drivers were ages 26 to 35. No matter the age of the drunk driver involved, about 3 out of 4 were male.
As for the remainder, a startling number of drunk drivers are underage. Around 380 drunk drivers who died in crashes in 2022 were between the ages of 16 and 20, which means that nearly a quarter of fatal injuries to drunk drivers occurred in minors who were too young to purchase alcohol legally. Four drunk drivers were under the age of 16, which also meant they were driving without a license.
As worrisome as that is, there is some hope: since Pennsylvania’s Underage Drinking Law in 1988, there has been a steady decline in underage drunk drivers getting into accidents. While 385 crashes is an alarming number, especially involving underage drinking, in 2013 that number of underage DUI crashes was as high as 782 accidents. The number doesn’t decrease every single year, but overall, it seems to be the trend that this number is going and staying down.
Drunk Drivers by Vehicle Type
While most drunk drivers who got into a crash were behind the wheel of the car, they weren't the only type of driver causing these collisions.
Those who caused accidents while driving under the influence included:
- 4,471 drivers of passenger cars
- 3,694 drivers of vans and other large vehicles
- 277 motorcyclists
- 51 drivers of heavy trucks
How Can You Protect Yourself from Drunk Drivers?
No matter which statistic you pick out, even if it’s an improvement from prior years, the data shows that drunk driving accidents are happening far more often than they should be. Of course, these numbers underscore the importance of driving responsibly yourself and making sure your kids do so as well. While driving while the sun is still up is safer for a myriad of reasons, and it can be prudent to time your holiday travels accordingly, sometimes safety on the road is out of your hands, because one reckless driver can single-handedly put other lives at risk.
As painfully obvious as it can be that a drunk driver was responsible for your crash and injuries, that unfortunately doesn’t mean that insurance companies will be happy to help you and provide the coverage you’re owed. Insurance may still try to underpay your claim, getting you to accept a lowball offer. If you or a loved one was in a crash with a drunk driver, Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC can provide the legal advocacy you need to get the results you deserve. Our attorneys can put a century of proven legal experience behind your case, and you don’t pay us anything unless we win your case.