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By Willoughby Mariano February 3, 2012

Deal DUI Super Bowl ad cites good statistic

Georgians watching Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast will be treated to seeing football’s two best teams battle each other, the best commercials to hit television, a halftime show by pop legend Madonna -- and a cameo by Gov. Nathan Deal.

That’s no misprint folks, Gov. Deal.

Deal won’t be tackling anyone or stiff-arming defenders. Instead, he will appear in a 60-second ad urging Georgia motorists to get a ride home if they’ve had too much alcohol on Super Sunday. Of course, there’s an app for that. It’s called Drive Sober Georgia, and it lists phone numbers for programs that drive tipsy motorists home for free.  

"No one wants to stop you from enjoying the game," Deal says in the public service announcement. "However, having too much to drink and getting on the road endangers not only your life, but the lives of others. One out of every three automobile fatalities can be attributed to alcohol."

PolitiFact Georgia wondered: Did Deal score a truth touchdown with this alcohol fatality statistic or should the governor get flagged for a misleading statement?

We consulted the top authorities on drunken driving data. They all cite numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Its Fatality Analysis Reporting System collects yearly statistics on deadly traffic crashes, including ones involving drunken drivers

The NHTSA defines "alcohol-impaired" crashes as those that involve a driver with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher. A sober driver could be at fault.

According to the NHTSA, 10,839 people were killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired driving in 2009. This accounts for 32 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.  

The percentage dropped slightly in 2010, when 10,228 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes or 31 percent.

Georgia’s percentage of crashes involving alcohol-impaired driving sits well below the national average. In 2010, it was 24 percent, or 298 out of 1,244 fatalities in the state.

The Peach State’s neighbor, South Carolina, had the highest percentage of DUI traffic-related fatalities -- 44 percent.

Although Georgia apparently has a smaller percentage of DUI traffic-related fatalities than most states, some advocates against drunken driving believe the Peach State can do more on the issue.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving advocates were at the state Capitol this week to urge lawmakers to support Senate Bill 41, which would require first-time offenders of Georgia’s DUI laws to have an ignition interlock device in their car for at least six months. Georgia law currently requires the device for repeat DUI offenders. An ignition interlock device works like a Breathalyzer. It measures a driver’s blood-alcohol content and prevents the car from starting if the reading surpasses a certain level.

"MADD believes Georgia can do better," said Frank Harris, the group’s state legislative affairs director.

So, back to Deal’s claim. Is he right? Can one out of every three automobile fatalities be "attributed" to alcohol?

Deal’s numbers are right. But his language is slightly off.

According to the NHTSA’s definition, the drunken driver doesn’t have to be at fault for the crash to count as an "alcohol-impaired" wreck. Deal would have been more accurate to say that one out of every three automobile fatalities involves a drunken driver.

That said, this is a minor point. Deal’s overall point holds.

We won’t dock him on this technicality. He earns a True.

Our Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Impaired Driving fact sheet, accessed Jan. 31, 2012

Georgia Senate Bill 41, accessed Feb. 1, 2012

MADD state-by-state DUI statistics, accessed Jan. 31, 2012

Telephone interview with Frank Harris, Mothers Against Drunk Driving state legislative affairs director, Jan. 31, 2012

U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2009 data, accessed Jan. 31, 2012

U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, State Motor Vehicle Fatalities, 2010

Email interview, Harris Blackwood, director, Governor's Office of Highway Safety, Feb. 1, 2012

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Deal DUI Super Bowl ad cites good statistic

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