Drunk drivers are a serious problem in Tampa. Their dangerously irresponsible behavior puts everyone at risk of an accident and they should be held fully accountable for the harm they cause.

In 2013, more people died per capita in drunk driving accidents in Hillsborough County than in any nearby county. Hillsborough County’s rate of drunk driving deaths also was more than in Florida as a whole, according to a recent statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Hillsborough County ranked third in the state with 179 traffic fatalities in 2013, a slight decrease from the previous year. The number of deaths related to alcohol impaired driving in Hillsborough County jumped from 36 in 2009 to 57 in 2013, an increase of nearly 60 percent.

According to the NHTAS, an alcohol impaired driving fatality is one that results from any crash that involved at least one driver or motorcycle rider with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or above.

Ellen Snelling, chair of the Tampa Alcohol Coalition, said drunk driving was a major problem in the Tampa Bay area. “People are drinking way too much at bars and clubs and driving,” Snelling told the Tampa Bay Times. When you see something in the 30s for two years and it jumps to the 50s … it all points to problems.”

A series of fatal crashes involving drivers travelling the wrong way on interstates in the Tampa area claimed at least a dozen lives in 2013. Last February, four University of South Florida fraternity brothers were killed when their car was hit head on by a driver travelling the wrong way on Interstate 275. An autopsy later revealed the wrong way driver’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

People have theories as to why so many more people are getting into fatal drunk driving accidents in Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough Sheriff’s Sgt. Troy Morgan points to the recent accidents involving pedestrian and bicyclist deaths that could be linked to drunk drivers. He also thinks that the city’s vibrant nightlife and colleges contribute to a culture of partying and alcohol consumption. Both the University of South Florida and the University of Tampa are in Hillsborough County.

More than 1,800 DUI arrests were made in Hillsborough County in 2012 and 2013. In addition, police make it a point to educate kids about drunk driving and also instruct bartenders about over serving customers.

Tampa police DUI Capt. Ruben Delgado said it essentially it boils down to the person making a choice before he or she goes out to not drive home.

If you are harmed by a driver who has made a poor decision to drink and drive, talk to a Tampa car accident lawyer about your legal options for compensation. The driver may face charges for drinking and driving, but that won’t provide compensation for your medical bills or other losses. You may have a legal right to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident. Contact us and let us explain your legal options.