Drunk driving fatalities fell 1.1% in 2017 but the issue remains a top concern for highway...

Drunk driving fatalities fell 1.1% in 2017 but the issue remains a top concern for highway safety advocates.

Photo via Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Drunk driving fatalities fell 1.1% in 2017 compared with 2016, and alcohol impairment remains the leading cause of highway deaths, according to the most recent data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Of the 37,133 people who died in traffic crashes in 2017, 29% of those killed, or 10,874, were due to drunk driving. While this 29% of overall fatalities is the lowest percentage since 1982, when NHTSA started reporting alcohol data, it still shows that drunk driving remains the top cause of fatal crashes nationwide.

The NHTSA data drills down to the state level as well. Twenty-six states and Puerto Rico saw declines in the number of alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities. Florida had the largest decrease, with 66 fewer lives lost in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in 2017.

Conversely, 21 states and the District of Columbia saw increases in the number of alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities, with the largest increase of 67 fatalities in Michigan, followed by 44 more in Maryland.

New Mexico, New York, and Utah saw no change in the number of alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities from 2016 to 2017.

Nationwide, drunk driving deaths and overall traffic fatalities had increased over the previous year in both 2015 and 2016. However, the slight drop in 2017 is not enough, according to Mothers Against Drink Driving.

 "One death is too many, but almost 11,000 lives lost, two years in a row, is devastating. It's unacceptable," said Colleen Sheehey-Church, president of MADD. "We must double-down on preventing this violent crime with strong laws, diligent law enforcement and making sure we are taking personal responsibility in our own lives to always plan ahead for a non-drinking driver when plans include alcohol."

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