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The number of fatal car crashes due to alcohol related incidents has not seen much of a decline in recent years even though there are far fewer drunk drivers on the road, according to information from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

A number of programs, organizations and initiatives have taken aim at reducing drunk driving, and U.S. law firms have joined the fight by offering free cab rides for alcohol induced bar patrons during the holidays. This New Year’s Eve was again the subject of initiatives driven by law firms, advocacy organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the roadside assistance group AAA.

Thousands of revelers celebrated the beginning of 2014 by patronizing their favorite bars, restaurants and clubs and many were treated to complementary cab rides as part of a nationwide effort to reduce drunk-driving. Virginia-based law firm Allen & Allen is one of many to have contributed to paying for the cab rides this holiday.

“We started this program with the goal of keeping our community and our roadways safe,” said firm president Trent Kerns. The rides were available until 5 a.m. on New Year’s Day, according to information from the firm’s website.

Beneficiaries would be given a complementary Sober Ride Home, but were not given rides to other establishments. The California based Berg Injury Lawyers Safe and Sober Program began on St. Patrick’s Day of 2004. According to Berg Injury Lawyers website, the program “seeks to raise community awareness of the dangers of drunk driving and to encourage individuals to make responsible choices by providing a safe transportation alternative on many of the traditionally high alcohol consumption holidays.”

Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, with locations in New York, Vermont and Massachusetts, offered a “no questions asked” policy and boast more than 1,000 safe rides given since their program’s inception. This year the firm partnered with local businesses to bring the rides “deeper into the community,” according to information from the firm.

However, while these free rides and other drunk-driving based initiatives serve to combat alcohol related incidents, a recent report from the IIHS only substantiates their effectiveness in part, showing “weekend drinking and driving” has gone down in recent years, although, fatal accidents have shown almost no change.

Their report was not explicitly directed at holiday incidents. It states: “The percentage of drivers on the road who are impaired by alcohol has plunged during recent decades, but the percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal crashes has stayed relatively constant. This disconnect has perplexed researchers and policy experts alike.”

The report suggests “driver characteristics” and habits might be able to explain the anomaly, but ultimately it offered no concrete explanation. "The conundrum is that trends in alcohol-related fatal crashes aren't in line with the downward trend we are seeing in the roadside surveys," said Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research and the study's top author.

"The number of people who still die in alcohol-related crashes remains alarmingly high. In 2012, 10,322 people died in crashes involving drivers with illegal BACs." The report can be viewed here.

Dan Sabbatino is an award winning journalist whose accolades include a New York Press Association award for a series of articles he wrote dealing with a small upstate town’s battle over the implications of letting a “big-box” retailer locate within its borders. He has worked as a reporter and editor since 2007 primarily covering state and local politics for a number of Capital Region publications, including The Legislative Gazette.

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