How Dangerous is Drunk Driving?

Public perception is that drunk drivers cause carnage on the highways. Former US Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist approved sobriety checkpoints, allowing police to stop motorists without any reason whatsoever writing:

No one can seriously dispute the magnitude of the drunken driving problem or the States’ interest in eradicating it. Media reports of alcohol-related death and mutilation on the Nation’s roads are legion. The anecdotal is confirmed by the statistical. ‘Drunk drivers cause an annual death toll of over 25,000 and in the same time span cause nearly one million personal injuries and more than five billion dollars in property damage.'”

Justice Harry Blackmun agreed, writing:

“I fully agree with the Court’s lamentations about the slaughter on our highways, and about the dangers posed to almost everyone by the driver who is under the influence of alcohol or other drug. I add this comment only to remind the Court that it has been almost 20 years since, in Perez v. Campbell, 402 U.S. 637, 657 (1971), in writing for three others (no longer on the Court) and myself, I noted that the ‘slaughter on the highways of this Nation exceeds the death toll of all our wars,’ and that I detected “little genuine public concern about what takes place in our very midst and on our daily travel routes.” See, also, Tate v. Short, 401 U.S. 395, 401 (1971)(concurring statement). And in the Appendix to my writing in Perez, 402 U.S., at 672, I set forth official figures to the effect that for the period from 1900 through 1969 motor-vehicle deaths in the United States exceeded the death toll of all our wars. I have little doubt that those figures, when supplemented for the two decades since 1969, would disclose an even more discouraging comparison.”

Geez… the “slaughter on the highways of this Nation exceeds the death toll of all our wars.”  That’s pretty scary.  Importantly, those statements, and those numbers, have been used to erode our Constitutional protections against police interference.  “Can I see your papers please, Komrad,” comes straight out of an old spy thriller in East Berlin.

And it’s a complete crock.  The numbers were lies.  All lies.  We gave up some of our liberties because the government lied to us.

Here are some of the leading causes of death.  You can judge for yourself:


Cause of Death # of Deaths
Heart disease: 616,067
Cancer: 562,875
Stroke: 135,952
Respiratory diseases: 127,924
Alzheimer’s disease: 74,632
Diabetes: 71,382
Influenza and Pneumonia: 52,717
Hospital Mistakes: 44,000 to 98,000
Nephritis: 46,448
Motor Vehicle Accidents: 43,354
Septicemia: 34,828
Firearms: 29,569
Liver Disease: 25,192
Falls: 13,322
Poisoning: 12,757*
Drunk driver and/or passenger: 10,792**
Workplace Accidents: 4,340
Drowning: 3,842
Smoke/Fire: 3,377
Pedestrian/Occupant of other vehicle killed by a drunk driver: 2,206**


*Reported elsewhere as 29,846 by CDC.

**”10,792 deaths were the drunk driver or his passenger.  2,206 were in other vehicles or pedestrians, implying that they were all blameless victims. 2,206 is 5% of all traffic fatalities. If any of the 2,206 were impaired is not recorded and who was at-fault is never discussed.” from, retrieved on March 23, 2011.