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Dear Mahatma: I read that 34% of all traffic fatalities involved drunk drivers. The first thing that popped into my head was what the heck were the other 66% doing? But that's not the question. Are there statistics on how many cars with handicap license plates are involved in fatal accidents? -- Stuck behind HC Plate.

Dear Stuck: We are fixin' to ramble.

First off, we went to the website of the Arkansas State Police for a look at its annual report on traffic crash statistics. The latest report is from 2014, but it illuminates nonetheless. Let's start out with the eye-bugging figure of 60,947 total traffic crashes in 2014. Plenty to keep our insurance agents busy.

The good news is that the number of fatalities was in decline, from 654 in 2005 to 470 in 2014. But really, what number is acceptable? It's said that a recession is when your neighbor loses his job, and a depression is when you lose your job. Make an analogy to the tragedies of fatal traffic accidents.

As for the 34% statement in the above question, the report shows that 109 of those 470 fatalities were alcohol-related. That's 23%.

To broaden the scope, let's look at fatalities described as alcohol/drug-related. The figure jumps to 206, or 44% of the total. Buzzed is buzzed. Blasted is blasted. Bombed is bombed.

Nationally, alcohol-related fatalities were 28%, and alcohol/drug-related fatalities were 40%. The reader may decide if these state/national differences are noteworthy. We find the state's apparently higher drug-related fatalities to be uncomfortable. Maybe even frightening.

But that's not your question. Your question is whether there are statistics on fatal accidents involving vehicles with handicap license plates.

We have searched around by first examining carefully the state police report. Handicap drivers are not broken out. We then ambled through the website of the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration. Nothing found by us. Next we tried the website of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Negatory.

The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration did have plenty of information about older drivers. May we assume that a substantial chunk of Arkansans who drive with handicap placards and plates -- right at 205,000, according to the Department of Finance and Information -- are older drivers?

Pay attention, sons and daughters. The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration asks questions about older drivers. Here are a few:

• Are they getting lost on routes that should be familiar?

• Have they noticed new dents or scratches on the vehicle?

• Are they overwhelmed by road signs and markings while driving?

• Are they taking any medication that might affect driving safely?

• Have they received a ticket for impaired driving?

• Have they noticed themselves speeding or driving too slowly for no reason?

There it is, folks. We've gigged two sets of drivers -- those with a handicap privilege and those over a certain age. Pondering welcome.

[email protected]

Metro on 11/30/2019


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