The number of road users killed in drunk driving accidents in Tennessee and around the country rose sharply in 2021 according to a report released on Aug. 8 by the driver education company Zutobi. The report indicates that crashes involving intoxicated drivers claimed 13,386 lives in the United States in 2021. That figure represents a significant increase over the 11,654 who died in drunk driving accidents in 2020. Zutobi used data from the National Safety Council and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality and Injury Reporting System to compile its DUI report.
Drunk driving could be an underreported problem
The Zutobi DUI report suggests that about a third of the people killed on the nation’s roads each year lose their lives in drunk driving accidents, but road safety groups including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety believe that impaired driving is an underreported problem. That is because toxicology tests are only performed on 59% of the drivers killed in motor vehicle accidents. In Mississippi, only 9% of fatal accident reports include information about blood alcohol concentrations.
Drunk driving fatalities in Tennessee
When BAC information is not collected at fatal accident scenes, drunk driving fatalities are calculated using a multiple imputation model developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation. According to the IIHS, 361 of the drivers killed in car accidents in Tennessee in 2021 had BACs higher than the 0.08% legal limit. When the DOT model is used to calculate drunk driving deaths in accidents where no BAC information is available, that figure rises to 709. The IIHS Fatality Facts report only includes information about the number of drivers killed in alcohol-related accidents. This means the report does not reveal how many passengers, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians were killed in 2021 by drunk drivers in the Volunteer State.
Drunk driving deaths in the United States have risen in recent years after decades of steady decline. About a third of all road deaths are alcohol-related according to NHTSA, but that figure is an estimation generated by a statistical model. If blood samples were collected at every fatal accident scene, an even higher drunk driving death toll could emerge.