Alcohol leading cause, againThe North Dakota Department of Transportation and the North Dakota Highway Patrol released its traffic fatality report earlier this week and once again alcohol is the leading cause of motor vehicle related deaths in the state of North Dakota with 50 out of 104 deaths attributed to alcohol.
By: John Odermann, The Dickinson Press
The North Dakota Department of Transportation and the North Dakota Highway Patrol released its traffic fatality report earlier this week and once again alcohol is the leading cause of motor vehicle related deaths in the state of North Dakota with 50 out of 104 deaths attributed to alcohol.
Superintendent of the Highway Patrol, Mark Nelson said the statistics are consistent with years past, although 2008 did see a decrease of seven fatalities from 2007.
“Unfortunately it is pretty close to the average,” Nelson said. “In most crashes — obviously — alcohol plays a factor in nearly fifty percent of the crash fatalities that we have.”
Forty-eight percent of traffic related deaths were attributed to alcohol compared to 57 percent in 2007. Nine fewer lives were lost as a result of alcohol in 2008 than in 2007.
Anthony Huck, the operational commander for the Highway Patrol’s Dickinson office said the percent of crashes related to alcohol in this area tends to be greater.
“I think it’s because we’re a little more rural,” Huck said. “If you’re in heavier traffic you’re more alert and you get into the rural areas driving for miles all by yourself you’ve more of a tendency to get drowsy especially when you’re impaired with alcohol.”
According to information provided by the Highway Patrol office in Dickinson there were ten traffic related fatalities in the southwest area.
Adams, Billings and Bowman counties each had one traffic related fatality; Dunn County had two crashes and three deaths and Stark County had three crashes and four deaths. Golden Valley and Hettinger counties did not have a fatal crash in 2008.
Statewide there were 38 single vehicle rollover crashes with 40 fatalities, of those 40, 36 of them were not wearing their seatbelts. Nelson said he’s seen several examples during his time with the Highway Patrol of how important it is to wear a seatbelt.
“I’ve seen crashes where vehicles overturn where a driver is ejected and killed. I look at the vehicle and in my mind there is no way somebody should have died in that crash,” Nelson said.
Nearly three-quarters of the deaths in 2008, 59 of 81, were individuals who were not wearing a seat belt, even though the vehicles were equipped with them. The 23 other deaths were pedestrian, motorcycle or bicycle crashes.
Motorcycle deaths have seen a steady increase over the last couple of years from four in 2006 to 13 in 2008.
Huck said there isn’t much the Highway Patrol plans to change with how they do things in the next year.
“We’re going to do what we’ve done in the past,” Huck said. “We’re going to continue to do sobriety checkpoints, we’re going to try to do as many of those as we can.”
Nelson said it’s important people just remember to not drink and drive, wear their seatbelts and follow the rules of the road.