DWI deaths rise in Carolinas

SOURCE: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Drunken-driving deaths fell in 32 states but rose in the Carolinas in 2007, the government reported Thursday, but alcohol-related fatalities increased among motorcycle riders in half the states.

Nearly 13,000 people were killed in crashes in which the driver had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08, the legal limit in the U.S., or at higher levels.

Overall, alcohol deaths were down nearly 4 percent compared with 2006, when nearly 13,500 people died on the highway.

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said she was disappointed by the increase in deaths involving drunk motorcycle riders. A total of 1,621 motorcyclists were killed in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2007, an increase of 7.5 percent.

Motorcycle riders have been featured in the government's $13 million advertising campaign surrounding the Labor Day holiday. Law enforcement agencies are increasing their enforcement against drunken driving during the end of the summer.

Dean Thompson, a spokesman for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, said riders who conduct training courses always stress the dangers involved in drinking alcohol before riding.

“The skill set you need in terms of the coordination and balance and things like that, you cannot choose to drink and ride. It's just the wrong choice to make,” he said.

Among the states, California had 117 fewer alcohol-impaired driving deaths last year, the largest decrease in the nation. Texas had 108 fewer deaths and Arizona's fatalities dropped by 63 deaths.

North Carolina had 66 more deaths, the most among states, followed by South Carolina with 44 fatalities.

In addition to North Carolina and South Carolina, alcohol-impaired deaths increased in Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.