- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 21, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Drunken-driving fatalities increased in 22 states last year and fell in 28 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, federal transportation officials said yesterday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released data showing 13,470 deaths in 2006 involving drivers and motorcycle operators with blood alcohol levels of .08 percent or higher, which is the legal limit for adults throughout the country. The number was down slightly from 2005, when 13,582 persons died in crashes involving drunken drivers.

The overall number of deaths involving drivers and motorcycle operators with any amount of alcohol in their blood was 17,602 last year. That was up from 17,590 in 2005, spokeswoman Heather Ann Hopkins said.

“The number of people who died on the nation’s roads actually fell last year,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said at a press conference. “However, the trend did not extend to alcohol-related crashes.”

Transportation officials announced the figures as they introduced an $11 million nationwide advertising campaign as part of a Labor Day weekend effort, “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.”

“This crackdown is very, very, very important because it’s the penalties that are imposed when someone chooses to ignore the law that really have the ability to make changes,” Mrs. Peters said.

Among states, Arizona, Kansas and Texas had the greatest increases in the number of drunken-driving deaths last year. But Utah, Kansas and Iowa had the largest percentage increases compared with 2005. Texas had the largest number of drunken-driving deaths: 1,354.

Florida, Missouri and Pennsylvania had the greatest decreases in the number of drunken-driving deaths last year, while the District of Columbia, Alaska and Delaware had the largest percentage decreases compared with 2005. The District had the smallest number of drunken-driving deaths with a total of 12.

In Maryland, 41 percent of 651 traffic fatalities were alcohol-related, a 12 percent increase from 2005.

In Virginia, 39 percent of 963 traffic fatalities were alcohol-related, a 5 percent increase from 2005.