DUI Fatalities Decrease in Greater Washington, Countering National Level Trends

New data released in 2021 “How Safe are our Roads” Report

Washington, D.C. (December 30, 2021) – Alcohol-related traffic fatalities, injuries, crashes, and drunk driving arrests all decreased in the metropolitan Washington area in 2020, according to the 29th-annual “How Safe Are Our Roads?” Report prepared by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) for the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP).

While overall traffic deaths in the area increased by nearly four percent (3.9%) during the COVID-impacted period, area drunk driving deaths decreased by 20-percent last year.

Such trends would appear to counter those at the national level, with traffic fatalities increasing by 7.2 percent in 2020 and deaths involving “police-reported alcohol involvement” increasing by an estimated nine percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

For the first six months of 2021, NHTSA estimates an 18.4-percent jump in traffic fatalities which the federal agency labeled as the “highest half-year percentage increase” ever recorded in the U.S.

“While the latest version of this local, annual report shows Greater Washington favorably bucking national trends regarding traffic incidents during the COVID era, no one is waving a victory flag when we’re still arresting nearly 10,000 persons for drunk driving every single year in the metropolitan Washington area,” said WRAP President Kurt Erickson.

“Without question, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic has presented numerous challenges to many first responders and the law enforcement community is not exempt from such issues,” said COG Police Chiefs Committee Vice Chairman and Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police Department Chief David Huchler. “While this year’s annual ‘How Safe are Our Roads’ Report showed the lowest number of local DUI arrests in years, drunk driving is still a pressing issue in the community. We must remain vigilant and continue using this data to make smart decisions regarding roadway safety for all travelers.”

Findings from the report include:

Fatalities: Local alcohol and/or drug-impaired traffic fatalities decreased by nearly 20-percent between 2019 and 2020 (from 90 to 72 such fatalities).

Injuries: Regional alcohol and/or drug-related traffic injuries decreased by nearly 27-percent between 2019 and 2020 (from 1,777 to 1,298 such injuries).

Crashes: Area traffic crashes attributed to alcohol and/or drugs decreased by nearly 23-percent between 2019 and 2020 (from 4,273 to 3,292 such crashes).

Arrests: Local arrests for either driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI) decreased by 29-percent between 2019 and 2020 (from 13,920 to 9,882 such arrests).

In addition, one-quarter (25%) of Greater Washington’s traffic fatalities last year involved impaired drivers. Nationally, 28-percent of total U.S. vehicular fatalities in 2019 were reported as alcohol-impaired, according to NHTSA.

MORE: View the “How Safe are our Roads?” Report.

Kurt Gregory Erickson: kurt@wrap.org, (703) 625-2303

Janele Partman: jpartman@mwcog.org, (202) 962-3250