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State Drunk Driving Deaths Decline

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California and Nevada have had large declines in alcohol-related driving deaths compared to 20 years ago. But there is concern about a rise in drunken driving fatalities in recent years.

A comprehensive federal report for all states shows California and Nevada deaths from drunken driving nearly mirror a national trend. In 1982 drunken driving accounted for 61 percent of all California traffic deaths compared to 40 percent last year.

But spokespersons for the California Highway Patrol and Mothers Against Drunk Driving say they are newly concerned about an increase in alcohol-related deaths since 1997. There was an increase in California drunken-driving traffic deaths from 1,348 in 1997 to 1,569 last year.

California and Nevada were among states with the biggest declines in the rate of drunken driving deaths from 1982 to last year. Nevada led all states with a 76 percent decline after its 1982 death rate in alcohol-related crashes was second highest in the nation. California improved from the 25th highest rate in 1982 to 42nd among the states last year. California had one traffic death for every 200 million miles driven last year while Nevada’s rate was about 46 percent higher than California.

The most dangerous state for drunken driving deaths last year was South Carolina at double the national average. Utah was lowest more than 50 percent below the national rate. Only the District of Columbia had a higher drunken driving death rate last year compared to 20 years ago.