A new report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests adults in Maine are drinking far more than in years past.
Per capita consumption of alcohol among those over the age of 21 has risen since the late 1990s. In fact, according to an analysis of the data by The Bangor Daily News, consumption of alcohol has increased to levels not since since the 1970s.
Maine-based purchases of alcohol show a steady increase of alcohol consumption in the form of beer and spirits. However, wine consumption has remained relatively flat in recent years. From 2012 to 2013, there was a 1.7 percent increase in per capita consumption of alcohol. This was on par with the national increase of 1.5 percent. The data also shows Mainers prefer beer to anything else.
Researchers were careful to say that while purchase of alcohol is one way in which we can attempt to measure consumption, it may not be a perfectly accurate picture. In fact, consumption could actually be higher if we take into account the fact that in nearby New Hampshire, people can purchase alcohol tax-free. That means we may have a fair number of people who live at or near the border crossing state lines to purchase alcohol and bring it back home for consumption.
This fact, combined with what we know about the increase in purchases in Maine from 2010 to 2013, means more than likely, more people in Maine are consuming alcohol on a daily basis.
In and of itself, this fact might not be too alarming. But our concern as Portland DUI injury lawyers is the effect this may have on the safety of our roads.
Although the study does not link this increase with drunk driving, we will. In 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported nearly 29 percent of the 136 fatal crashes that year involved a driver who had consumed at least some amount of alcohol (his or her blood-alcohol concentration exceeded 0.01).
In 2013, the NHTSA reported 37 percent of the 145 traffic deaths involved a driver who had consumed alcohol.
Again, these drivers weren’t necessarily legally drunk, but they had consumed alcohol. What we know of alcohol consumption is that it affects everyone differently, and even small amounts can have a negative effect on judgment, visual perception and reaction time.
Drivers who were actually impaired with a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.08 accounted for 29 percent of all fatal car accidents in Maine in 2013, compared to 17 percent in 2011.
Nationally, there were 9,878 people killed in crashes where at least one driver had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. Fifty-seven percent of those had a blood-alcohol concentration that as higher than 0.15.
In 2013, there were 10,076 people who died nationally in impaired driving crashes. Of the 9,461 drivers in those crashes, 21 percent of drivers had a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher. While the total number of DUI deaths was down from 2004, that 21 percent figure remained exactly the same.
That tells us more action is necessary, whether through tougher enforcement, broader education or increased penalties.This is especially true as we learn Mainers are consuming more alcohol.
If you are the victim of a Portland car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Maine’s drinking again like it’s 1970, Sept. 1, 2015, By Darren Fishell, Bangor Daily News