Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is guaranteed to increase the chances of causing a car accident. This puts the occupants of both vehicles involved at serious risk of suffering a severe personal injury.
Unfortunately, this problem has existed since cars were invented: The very first DWI arrest happened in 1897.
Since then, DWI laws have fought to keep up with the problem of drunk driving. Here is how they have evolved to keep people safe on the roads of Missouri and the U.S.
Drunk Driving in the Early Days of Cars
Because cars drove so slowly in the early 1900s, drunk driving rarely led to a fatality. Lawmakers, therefore, did not think of it as a pressing problem. It was not until 1906 that New Jersey passed the first law that prohibited driving while under the influence. Other states were slow to follow suit.
The slow response was drawn out by the Prohibition Era. By making the sale of alcohol illegal until it was repealed in 1933, Prohibition laws decreased the number of drunk driving accidents in the U.S.
Numbers Rise After World War II
While there are few official or even reliable statistics to pinpoint how bad drunk driving became, all signs indicate that the problem got much worse after World War II. The need to keep people safe from drunk drivers resulted in the invention of the breathalyzer in 1953. However, existing DWI laws were still weak, and police rarely made a point of enforcing them.
Developments Since 1982
The year 1982 marked a significant movement in the prevention of drunk driving: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began recording official statistics about drunk driving. Most importantly, this included death totals, which brought home the dangers of car crashes caused by drunk driving. Together with the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the NHTSA’s numbers made clear how bad the problem had become.
By pressuring politicians, advocacy groups like MADD have strengthened DWI laws and penalties, and improved DWI enforcement. The result has been a 51% decrease in the number of fatalities from drunk drivers between 1982 and 2016.
Car Accidents Caused By Drunk Drivers Are Still a Problem
Despite the huge improvement, drunk drivers still kill far more Americans every year than terrorists do. Until this number is cut in half, again, police need to continue to enforce DWI laws and keep innocent people out of harm’s way.
St. Joseph Car Accident Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
In the ten years between 2003 and 2012, 3,314 people in Missouri died in crashes that involved a drunk driver. That is more than 330 people every year, and nearly one person every day.
The car accident and personal injury attorneys at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph represent people who have been hurt or killed in car accidents caused by drunk drivers. If you or someone you love has been a victim in St. Joseph, Kansas City, or Springfield, Missouri, call our law office at (816) 875-9373 or contact us online.