Rhode Island Attorney Finds Recent NHTSA Drinking-and-Driving Survey To Be Alarming

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According to a recently released NHTSA survey, 20 percent of drivers 16 and older say they have driven after drinking, which puts other motorists at risk of injury or death, Rhode Island personal injury attorney Mark Gemma says.

These survey results illustrate the need to take tougher measures against drunk drivers and raise more awareness about the human, criminal and civil consequences of drinking and driving.

Rhode Island personal injury attorney Mark Gemma says he is troubled by a recently released National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey showing a high number of drivers who admit to driving after drinking.

In the survey, 1 in 5 drivers ages 16 and older said they had, during the past year, driven within two hours of drinking alcohol. About two-thirds of those drivers, or 13 percent of the total population, said they had done so within the past 30 days.

According to NHTSA, those results meant that an estimated 85.5 million drinking-and-driving trips had occurred nationally in the past month, an increase from the 73.7 million reported in 2004.

“These survey results illustrate the need to take tougher measures against drunk drivers and raise more awareness about the human, criminal and civil consequences of drinking and driving,” says Gemma, whose law firm, Gemma Law Associates, Inc., represents the victims of DUI / DWI accidents and their families throughout the state of Rhode Island.

“It’s alarming to me that more people may be drinking and getting behind the wheel of their cars, especially in a state such as Rhode Island, which has one of the highest drunk driving fatality rates in the nation.”

According to NHTSA statistics from 2008, the latest year for which numbers are available, 38 percent of the state’s motor vehicle fatalities involved a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. The state ranked fifth in the country in that category.

As recently as 2004, Rhode Island ranked first in the country in the percentage of traffic fatalities related to drunk driving.

“Drunk driving accidents turn lives upside down for victims and their families, and the drunk driver faces criminal penalties and a potentially significant personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit,” Gemma says.

“A drunk driver could be held liable for a variety of damages, including medical expenses, funeral costs, lost wages, disfigurement, disability, rehabilitation, pain and suffering, emotional distress and the loss of the services and companionship of a loved one,” Gemma says. “Punitive damages are also frequently awarded in DUI/DWI accidents.”

In addition to drunk driving, statistics also show that an alarming number of Rhode Island drivers get behind the wheel after using illegal drugs, Gemma points out.

According to a 2008 study by the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly 7 percent of Rhode Island adult drivers had operated their vehicles in the prior year under the influence of illicit drugs.

“When it comes to holding a personal accountable for the bodily injury and property damage they have caused in a car accident, there’s little difference between a drunk or drugged driver,” Gemma says. “The bottom line is that impaired driving is dangerous driving.”

Instead of driving after drinking, Gemma suggests that Rhode Island residents call a taxi, designate a sober driver, use public transportation or call a friend or relative for a ride home.

About Gemma Law Associates, Inc.

Gemma Law Associates, Inc., is a Providence law firm that has represented the people of Rhode Island for more than 48 years while earning a reputation for success in several practice areas, including drunk driving accidents, car accidents, personal injury, workers’ compensation, Social Security disability, divorce, criminal defense and bankruptcy law. The law firm’s staff works as a team to ensure success in cases and is backed by a state-of-the-art collection of resources, including an advanced computerized case management system and extensive legal library.

The firm represents clients throughout the state of Rhode Island, including Providence, Pawtucket, Warwick, Washington County and Newport County. To learn more about Gemma Law Associates, Inc., call (401) 467-2300 or use the firm’s online contact form.

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