In 2003, 45 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had
by law created a threshold making it illegal to drive with a Blood
Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Recent statistics released
by NHTSA for 2003 show that 17,013 people died in alcohol-related
crashes. Eighty-six percent of the 17,013 were killed in crashes
where at least one driver or non-occupant had a BAC level of .08
or higher and half of the drivers involved in fatal crashes had
a BAC of 0.16 or above. Alcohol was involved in 40 percent of fatal
crashes and 7 percent of all crashes in 2003. Drivers 21 to 34 years
of age represent the highest percentage of drivers in fatal crashes
who had BAC levels of .08 or higher.
While the agency has made progress in reducing
the number of fatalities from 2003 (down 551, almost 3 percent from
2002 alcohol-related fatalities), the reality is that most impaired
drivers arrive home safely and are never punished for their life-threatening
crimes. This, unfortunately, only reinforces their future decisions
and behavior. To continue this downward trend in alcohol-related
fatalities, a goal of raising awareness and keeping messages in
the public view that impaired driving is a deadly crime with severe
personal consequences is critical.
Everyday in the United States, people are killed and seriously injured
because they fail to take the simple life saving precaution of wearing
their safety belt. In 2003, 42,643 people died on our nation's highways
and 2.89 million more were seriously injured as a result of traffic
crashes. Studies demonstrate again and again that the greatest deterrent
to traffic fatalities and injuries is for motorists to buckle up
their children and themselves.
To increase safety belt use, NHTSA conducts a national high visibility
enforcement and paid media mobilization shortly before and during
the Memorial Day weekend (2 weeks). Because of NHTSA’s efforts
and efforts of its many partners, safety belt usage now stands at
80 percent nationwide.
While efforts have been successful, much more
must be done. To realize the full life-saving potential of safety
belts usage rates nationwide must increase to 85 to 90 percent.
A goal of raising awareness and keeping safety belt messages in
the public view is critical in creating an environment where unsafe
driving behavior is unacceptable.