With New Year’s pretty much in our collective rearview mirror it may not be totally inappropriate to look at the impact that drinking and driving has on our society, not only in terms of injuries and deaths from driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs, but also from the standpoint of arrests and summonses issued to motorists for DWI, drug DUI, breath test refusal and other drunk driving-related offenses. To say the least, as New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyers, my office is dedicated to assisting those individuals who believe that they have been falsely accused of operating a motor vehicle while under impaired.
Here in the Garden State, more than one motorist has been stopped by a state police trooper, municipal patrolman, county sheriff’s deputy or other law enforcement officer after having been observed executing an improper traffic maneuver or other motor vehicle offense. Such stops most often result in some kind of traffic citation, though some also turn into full-blown drunken driving arrests.
By law, an officer cannot stop a car, truck or motorcycle solely on the suspicion that the driver is impaired by beer, wine, hard liquor, prescription medication or some kind of illicit drug, such as marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamine. But following a routine traffic stop, the door swings wide open for any potential drunken driving investigation by the officer in charge.
It should be stated here that safety experts point to drunk driving as one of the main causes of traffic wrecks and auto accident fatalities in the U.S. As legal professionals, I and my colleagues understand the State’s desire to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road at any one time; however, we also know that many times a driver is charges with a DWI-related offense when evidence is either lacking or completely absent. In such instances, a motorist may choose to seek professional representation to fight the charges in court.
This all came to mind after we ran into a news story featuring an interesting map of the United States, apparently illustrating the concentrations of DWI-related traffic fatalities over the past decade or so. Such visual representations can have a visceral effect on many people, which makes such a representation all the more impactful in the eyes of traffic safety advocates.
According to the news article, the drunk driving fatality map was created for a blog and graphically illustrates the distribution of DWI accidents nationwide that have been associated with traffic deaths between the years of 2001 and 2010. The startling image of the U.S., which is was put together using statistical data from Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a database amassed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The map uses a kind of “hexagonal mesh” laid over the continental United States, with each of the hexagons representing fatal drunken driving crashes covering the same geographical area of each incident. The darker the area, the higher the percentage of fatal DWI collisions.
The data was fairly easy to access as it is publicly available from the NHTSA, which has traffic accident information going back as far as 1975. The representation is quite remarkable, though some have suggested that it also vaguely resembles the distribution of population data points on a census map. Still, the creator of the DWI accident map points out that, not surprisingly, Manhattan has a very low percentage of alcohol-related accidents, though its population is very dense. The same can be said, according to the author, for Miami, Memphis and Salt Lake City, among others. On the flip side, other areas, such as those between larger cities — like that shared between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, PA — have a greater incidence of DWI- and DUI-related crashes.
The Geography of Drunk Driving, TheAtlanticCities.com, December 31, 2012