Because we spend so much time in our vehicles—commuting, driving kids to school and activities, traveling to visit friends and family members—one of the most common ways people are seriously injured today is in car accidents. While crashes less frequently involve drunk driving now than they did many years ago—thanks to tougher penalties for DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances) and overall better education about why it’s a bad idea to drink and drive—drunk driving accidents are still unfortunately common.
Today’s blog post answers some of the major questions that people have about drunk driving accidents, including how to protect themselves from becoming a victim in one of these tragic personal injury or wrongful death incidents. However, if you’ve already been involved in a drunk driving accident, we have essential advice for you, too. Read on for more.
How Many Drunk Driving Accidents Happen in Pennsylvania Per Year?
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) tracks vehicle crash statistics and has publicly available data going back several decades.
2018 data show that drunk driving accidents across the Commonwealth actually fell below 10,000 for the first time in several years, with 9,811 total DUI-related car accidents. Put another way, there were approximately 27 crashes per day around PA last year related to alcohol or another impairment-causing substance. Sadly, 307 individuals perished in those crashes, which is less than one person per day, but still far, far too many drunk driving accident deaths.
How Many People are Killed by Drunk Drivers in Car Accidents?
As noted above, 307 fatal DUI accidents occurred on Pennsylvania roadways in 2018, which resulted in 331 deaths. This was an uptick from the 293 fatalities that happened in 2017, though numbers typically hover around 300-350 drunk driving accident deaths per year.
Somewhat interestingly, 90% of the alcohol-related occupant fatalities (drivers and passengers) were in the vehicle driven by the drinking driver, and 75% were the drinking drivers themselves who were killed. This reiterates the fact that you should never get behind the wheel after a night out at the bar or get in the car as a passenger with someone who has been drinking.
When and Where do Drunk Driving Accidents Occur Most Often?
One of the scariest things about drunk driving accidents is that many take place during daylight hours and regular commuting times when roads are at their busiest. This increases the likelihood of involving innocent, responsible drivers. For instance, while PennDOT reports that most DUI fatalities tend to occur during the overnight hours, over 20% happened between the hours of 4 p.m.-8 p.m. in 2018.
And these accidents happen on roadways of all types—from interstates to surface streets in smaller towns and cities across PA. In fact, 55 of the drunk driving accident deaths reported on in 2018 involved pedestrians.
What are the Penalties for Drunk Driving?
If someone drunk driving crashes into you and causes you any type of injury or damage to your vehicle or other property, they will likely face criminal charges. They may be penalized with fines, driver’s license suspension, and perhaps even jail time. The severity of the criminal charges depends on a multitude of factors, including whether the driver is a repeat offender.
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However, you need to understand that none of these punishments help you to get compensation for your lost wages, out-of-pocket medical expenses, or pain and suffering. You will need to consult with a skilled personal injury lawyer to determine your options for pursuing civil action against the impaired, at-fault driver.
How Can I Avoid Being Involved in a Drunk Driving Accident?
As already mentioned, the primary way to avoid being involved in a drunk driving accident is not to drink and drive. Pennsylvania law considers a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) level of .08 or higher to qualify as impairment, and some individuals may feel little physical effect at that point. If you’ve had even one drink, it’s best to call a cab, rideshare, friend, or family member to drive you instead.
Along with that, you should heed warnings on medication labels and never drive while under the influence of even legally prescribed medication that may impair your motor skills, reaction time, or mental clarity. In Pennsylvania, you may still be charged with DUI if you are involved in an auto accident while on medication or other drugs.
How do I Pursue Legal Action Against a Drunk Driver?
The short answer here is that you must hire an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you pursue multiple legal strategies for getting you the compensation and justice you deserve.
In drunk driving accidents, you may be able to recover compensation from each of these various sources depending on the factors of your individual case:
- Insurance money from the drunk driver’s insurance company
- Insurance money from your insurance company for uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits
- Dram Shop damages from the bar or restaurant that overserved the drunk driver
- Damages from a civil action against the drunk driver
- Workers’ compensation benefits
- Social Security Disability benefits
Unfortunately, not all personal injury attorneys are adept at maximizing compensation for their wrongfully injured clients or loved ones left behind following a tragic wrongful death. And, some others simply do not take the time to pursue every possible legal avenue. You will need to do a bit of homework to choose the best possible personal injury attorney for you.
Hurt By a Drunk Driver in Central PA? Call May, Herr & Grosh.
It is imperative that you work with a personal injury lawyer who has both the experience and compassion to serve you with confidence and care. As former assistant district attorneys with a passion for holding wrongdoers accountable, that’s who we are at May, Herr & Grosh.
Don’t wait to get your free initial personal injury case assessment and consultation—get in touch with us today.