Massachusetts drivers claim they drive drunk at higher rates than the national average. But a low number of state residents die from DUI. The drunk driving fatality rate in Massachusetts is barely half the national rate. There’s even better news buried in the Massachusetts DUI statistics. Auto fatalities in 2014 were half what they were in 1982. And the percentage of traffic deaths caused by alcohol has also dropped.
Massachusetts DUI Statistics: Behind the Numbers
Massachusetts DUI statistics are somewhat paradoxical. More people claim to drive drunk in Massachusetts than nationwide. But fewer people in the state die from it.
Self-Reported DUI Rates
Perhaps the most interesting of the Massachusetts DUI statistics is how state residents self-report their drunk driving habits.
A 2012 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study indicated 2.1 percent of state residents admit to driving drunk. Nationwide, only 1.9 percent of respondents said they’d driven after drinking too much.
With more people claiming to drive drunk in Massachusetts than nationwide, you might expect more DUI deaths. But the same CDC study reveals the opposite. Drunk driving deaths are lower in Massachusetts. And the difference is significant. In 2012, the rate of DUI deaths in Massachusetts was 1.8 per 100,000 residents. The national rate the same year was 3.3 per 100,000. The DUI fatality rate is 45 percent lower in Massachusetts than nationwide.
Fatalities by Age
Massachusetts DUI statistics indicate young people are most likely to die from DUI. Among all ages, the rate is 1.8 per 100,000 residents. But among residents ages 21 to 34, the rate is almost double at, 3.3 per 100,000. The rate for residents 35 and older is 1.7 per 100,000.
Fatalities by Gender
The gender disparity in Massachusetts DUI deaths is even larger than for age. The rate for men is 2.7 per 100,000, compared to 0.9 per women. Nationwide, the gap between men and women is almost as large: 5.2 per 100,000 for men and 1.5 per 100,000 for women.
How Massachusetts DUI Statistics are Trending
Fewer people than ever die in traffic accidents in Massachusetts. And the number of individuals who die because of alcohol is dropping just as fast.
In 1982, Massachusetts had 659 traffic fatalities, out of which 407, or 62 percent, involved alcohol. By 2014, total traffic fatalities dropped to 328. And only 154 of those deaths, or 47 percent, were alcohol-related. This means that in 32 years, total yearly traffic deaths in Massachusetts fell by over 50 percent. Traffic fatalities involving alcohol dropped by over 60 percent.
Why DUI Deaths are Dropping
Both the state and the federal government have taken significant steps in recent decades to reduce DUI deaths. This has resulted in a drop in Massachusetts DUI statistics. Steps taken include a lower impairment threshold, increased penalties, stiffer enforcement, and a host of mass-media awareness campaigns on the dangers of DUI.
Lower Impairment Threshold
Nationwide, the threshold for impairment is lower than it used to be. In the 1980s, you could drive legally with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.1%. In other words, 0.1% of your bloodstream could be alcohol. Under that standard, a 200-pound male could have five to six alcoholic drinks and still drive. Now the threshold is 0.08%. The same man would reach legal impairment after as few as four drinks.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to push to lower the threshold further, perhaps to 0.05%.
At the state level, most states, including Massachusetts, have upped penalties for drunk driving. In years past, DUI wasn’t much more than an enhanced traffic ticket. Now the penalties for DUI in Massachusetts are severe. They include loss of license for one year, a fine of $500 to $5,000, and possible jail time. Drivers have a bigger incentive than in years past to avoid operating under the influence.
Law enforcement has gotten more serious about cracking down on DUI. Enforcement is no longer passive. Police are taking active steps, such as setting up road blocks, to find and punish impaired drivers. These DUI checkpoints are not legal in all states. But they are in Massachusetts. Police often set them up near known DUI hot spots, such as downtown entertainment districts. They are also common on holidays, and in particular on party holidays, such as New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day.
People are highly aware these days of the dangers of driving drunk. Mass media campaigns deserve credit for raising awareness and changing people’s opinions. Perhaps you remember the “you’re not as cool as you think when you drink” PSAs from the 1990s. Some of them came off as cheesy, but they painted a vivid picture of the consequences of DUI. And possibly to their credit, DUI deaths in Massachusetts dropped by nearly 25% from 1990 to 1999.
Massachusetts DUI statistics show a huge drop over the years in traffic fatalities from alcohol. But DUI is still a reality in the state. If you’re facing a drunk driving charge, a DUI attorney who knows the law can steer your case to the best outcome.