Just about everyone knows that each year hundreds of Louisiana people are killed and thousands more are injured as a result of alcohol-related crashes. This is, of course, the most devastating result of drinking and driving.
However, few people are aware of the huge impact that impaired driving has on their pocketbooks.
Last year, an estimated 449 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in Louisiana, accounting for 49 percent of all highway fatalities.
On top of these deaths, we experienced 4,266 alcohol-related crashes in which someone was injured. While our 2008 death and injury rates for alcohol-involved crashes declined over the previous year, Louisiana still remains above the national average.
Last year, alcohol-related crashes cost Louisiana $1.3 billion, or $454 for every licensed driver in the state. This estimate by the Highway Safety Research Group of LSU’s E.J. Ourso College of Business includes a variety of costs such as medical expenses, property damage and lost wages.
Taxpayers bear a significant amount of these costs through medical treatment of victims at public facilities, disability payments and support to families who have lost their breadwinner to a crash.
Our crash rates are a significant factor in the higher than average vehicle insurance premiums that Louisiana motorists pay. In 2006, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners ranked Louisiana third in the nation with respect to cost of auto insurance.
The message we want to get across to the people of Louisiana is that drunken driving costs us all – not only those who have been involved in an alcohol-related crash. Eliminating drunken driving would save each driver and our state government considerable sums of money.
We can start to remedy this situation by personally pledging not to drive while impaired, but we can go further. We can use our influence with our families, friends and co-workers to convince them to avoid drinking and driving.
Law enforcement does much to remove drunk drivers from the roads, but we can all contribute to their efforts by helping keep those who have been drinking from getting behind the wheel in the first place.
Lt. Col. John LeBlanc,
Executive director, La. Highway Safety Commission