Recently a Chicago-area man with 16 previous drunk driving convictions was sentenced to 16 years in prison. The sentencing judge noted during the hearing that no one in Cook County courthouse had likely ever seen anyone with so many DUI convictions.

Alcohol-impaired driving is a serious matter in the United States. According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 10,500 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2016 involving drunk drivers. That number represented 28 percent of all the traffic fatalities recorded that year.

25- to 34-year-old age group: highest percentage of drunk drivers

All of these accidents were preventable, but drunk drivers don’t seem to understand. Traffic fatalities involving alcohol-impaired drivers also increased nearly 2 percent in 2016 compared with 2015 when 10,320 fatalities were recorded. Other key findings from the report  include:

  • The highest percentage of drunk drivers at 27 percent were people within the 25- to 34-year-old age group.
  • A total of 17 percent of the traffic fatalities of children ages 14 and younger were as a result of alcohol-impaired drivers.
  • Motorcycle drivers accounted for the highest percentage of drivers involved in alcohol-related traffic fatalities at 25 percent. Drivers of passenger cars ranked next with 21 percent, and then light trucks at 20 percent.
  • The economic cost of all alcohol-impaired accidents in 2010 was $44 billion. Those costs include workplace losses; legal and court expenses; medical costs; and property damage.
  • Texas led the nation with the most fatalities related to drunk driving with 1,438, followed by California (1,059); Florida (841); Georgia (368) North Carolina (354); South Carolina (331); Pennsylvania (327); and Ohio, (324). Illinois was next, ranking ninth in the country with 315 drunk driving-related fatalities.
  • Montana and North Dakota recorded the highest percentages of alcohol-involved fatalities compared with overall traffic fatalities at 45 percent. The U.S. average was 28 percent. Illinois’ number was at 29 percent.
  • Of the 10,497 alcohol-related traffic fatalities, 67 percent (7,052) involved at least one driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 percent or higher. This means that the majority of drunk driving fatalities involved drivers whose BAC level was nearly double or higher than the 0.08 percent level considered legally drunk.

Drivers need to be careful on the roads. If you choose to drink alcohol, please drink responsibly. If you know you’ve had too much to drink, ask someone else to drive or call for a taxi ride. You may be saving your life as well as the lives of others. Avoid any “what if” scenarios.