Drunk driving realities in Virginia

Despite ongoing education and public awareness campaigns, drunk drivers continue to grab their keys and kill innocent people on Virginia roads.

It would be hard to imagine that any person in Virginia who has a driver's license does not know that driving a vehicle after drinking is not safe. Over the past several decades advocacy groups and law enforcement entities alike have launched many campaigns to raise public awareness about the dangers of drunk driving.

Sadly, these campaigns and the penalties associated with a driving under the influence charge have proven unable to stop this behavior as innocent people continue to die at the hands of drunk drivers.

How many deaths in Virginia are caused by drunk drivers?

Data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that between 2012 and 2016 drunk drivers were responsible for between 27 percent and 36 percent of all vehicular fatalities every year in Virginia. In that five-year span, 934 people lost their lives statewide in crashes in which alcohol was a named factor.

How serious is the problem in Fairfax County?

Over the same five years, Fairfax County and Fairfax City together experienced 196 deaths in motor vehicle accidents. Of those, 52 were attributed to alcohol which represents 26.5 percent of all fatalities . That means that drunk drivers played a role in more than one out of every four accident deaths.

Last year showed a jump in the number of drunk driving deaths from five in 2015 to nine in 2016 highlighting the ongoing problem in the region.

Are drunk drivers still killing people in 2017?

News reports show that in 2017 innocent lives are continuing to be taken by negligent drivers who make bad choices. Two recent examples prove this point.

In one crash, The Virginian-Pilot reported that a driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.112 percent crossed into oncoming traffic along a stretch of Interstate 64 and hit another vehicle head on. The driver of the second vehicle was a 29-year-old officer with the U.S. Coast Guard. He was on his way to pick up his wife and her friends from a birthday celebration as he had promised to be the designated driver. The man's injuries were so severe that less than 24 hours after the crash, his family chose to withdraw life support and he died.

WRIC ABC 8 told of how a vehicle with five people was pushed off the road when struck by a drunk driver on Interstate 95. Four occupants were taken to the hospital for treatment. A woman who was unable to get out of the vehicle, which erupted into flames, died.

How can people get help after a drunk driving accident?

Clearly tough anti-drunk driving laws and public awareness campaigns are not able to convince people to make wise choices. Virginia residents who are forced to deal with the loss of a loved one due to the choice of a drunk driver should contact an attorney. Getting the right guidance may help people learn how they may seek compensation for their losses.