Drunk Driving

Drunk Driving

Alcohol is a major factor in traffic accidents. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there was an alcohol-impaired traffic fatality every 51 minutes in 2015.

Alcohol-impaired crashes are those that involve at least one driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above, the legal definition of drunk driving. According to NHTSA 10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2015, up 3.2 percent from 9,943 in 2014. In 2015 alcohol-impaired crash fatalities accounted for 29 percent of all crash fatalities.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates 1,089,171 drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2015. The arrest rate works out to one arrest for 200 licensed drivers in the United States.

The definition of drunk driving is consistent throughout the United States. All states and the District of Columbia define impairment as driving with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) at or above 0.08 percent. In addition, they all have zero tolerance laws prohibiting drivers under the age of 21 from drinking and driving. Generally the BAC in these cases is 0.02 percent.

Anti-drunk-driving campaigns especially target drivers under the age of 21, repeat offenders and 21-to 34-year-olds, the age group that is responsible for more alcohol-related fatal crashes than any other. Young drivers are those least responsive to arguments against drunk driving, according to NHTSA.

To make sellers and servers of liquor more careful about to whom and how they serve drinks, 42 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws or have case law holding commercial liquor servers legally liable for the damage, injuries and deaths a drunk driver causes. Thirty-nine states have enacted laws or have case law that permit social hosts who serve liquor to people who subsequently are involved in crashes to be held liable for any injury or death.

TOTAL TRAFFIC AND ALCOHOL-IMPAIRED CRASH FATALITIES, 1985-2014

    Alcohol-impaired crash fatalities (1)
Year Total traffic fatalities Number As a percent of all crash deaths
1985 43,825 18,125 41%
1990 44,599 17,705 40
1995 41,817 13,478 32
2000 41,945 13,324 32
2005 43,510 13,582 31
2006 42,708 13,491 32
2007 41,259 13,041 32
2008 37,423 11,711 31
2009 33,883 10,759 32
2010 32,999 10,136 31
2011 32,479 9,865 30
2012 33,782 10,336 31
2013 32,719 10,110 31
2014 32,675 9,967 31

(1) Alcohol-impaired driving crashes are crashes that involve at least one driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or above, the legal definition of drunk driving.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Percent Of Alcohol-Impaired Drivers Involved In Fatal Crashes By Age, 2005 And 2014 (1)

Age 2005 2014 Point change
16 to 20 17% 17% 0 pt.
21 to 24 33 30 -3
25 to 34 29 29 0
35 to 44 24 24 0
45 to 54 19 20 1
55 to 64 13 16 3
65 to 74 7 10 3
Over 74 4 6 2

(1) Alcohol-impaired driving crashes are crashes that involve at least one driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or above, the legal definition of drunk driving.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Persons Killed In Total And Alcohol-Impaired Crashes By Person Type, 2014

 

    Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities (1)
Person type Total killed Number Percent of total killed
Vehicle occupants      
     Driver 16,454 5,792 35%
     Passenger 5,751 1,769 31
     Unknown occupant 71 5 6
     Total 22,276 7,565 34%
Motorcyclists 4,586 1,577 34%
Nonoccupants      
     Pedestrian 4,884 696 14
     Pedalcyclist 726 98 13
     Other/unknown 203 30 15
     Total 5,813 824 14%
Total 32,675 9,967 31%

(1) Alcohol-impaired driving crashes are crashes that involve at least one driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or above, the legal definition of drunk driving.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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State Laws Curbing Drunk Driving

(As of September 2016)

        Mandatory ignition interlocks (1)  
  License revocation      First offenders  
State Admin.
Iicense rev./
susp. (2)
Mandatory
90-day
license
rev./
susp. (3)
Open
container
law (4)
All
offenders
All High-BAC
offenders
only (5)
Repeat
offenders
Alabama X X X X X   X
Alaska X X   X X   X
Arizona X X X X X   X
Arkansas X X   X X   X
California X X X   In 4 counties   X
Colorado X X X X X   X
Connecticut X     X X   X
Delaware X X   X X   X
D.C. X   X        
Florida X X X     X X
Georgia X X X       X
Hawaii X X X X X   X
Idaho X X X       X
Illinois X X X X X   X
Indiana X X X        
Iowa X X X     X X
Kansas X   X X X   X
Kentucky     X     X X
Louisiana X X   X X   X
Maine X X X X X   X
Maryland X X* X X*   X X
Massachusetts X   X       X
Michigan     X     X X
Minnesota X X X     X X
Mississippi X X   X X   X
Missouri X     X  X   X
Montana     X        
Nebraska X X X X X   X
Nevada X X X     X X
New Hampshire X X X   X X X
New Jersey     X     X X
New Mexico X X X X X   X
New York (6)   X X X   X
North Carolina X   X     X X
North Dakota X X X        
Ohio X X X       X
Oklahoma X X X     X X
Oregon X X X X X   X
Pennsylvania     X     X** X
Rhode Island     X X X   X
South Carolina     X     X X
South Dakota     X        
Tennessee       X X   X
Texas X X X X X   X
Utah X X X X X   X
Vermont X X X X X   X
Virginia X   X X X   X
Washington X X X X X   X
West Virginia X X X X X   X
Wisconsin X X X     X X
Wyoming X X       X X

(1) Ignition interlock devices analyze a driver's breath for alcohol and disable the ignition if a driver has been drinking. States identified mandate the devices on offenders' vehicles.
(2) On-the-spot drivers license suspension or revocation if blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over the legal limit or the driver refuses to take a BAC test.
(3) Mandatory penalty for violation of the implied consent law, which means that drivers who refuse to take a breath alcohol test when stopped or arrested for drunk driving will have their license revoked or suspended.
(4) Prohibits unsealed alcohol containers and alcohol consumption in motor vehicle passenger compartments for all occupants. Counts only laws meeting federal requiremements.
(5) Usually 0.15 percent BAC or higher.
(6) Administrative license suspension lasts until prosecution is complete.

*Effective 10/1/16.
**Effective 8/25/17.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; Governors Highway Safety Administration.

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Statutes Or Court Cases Holding Alcoholic Beverage Servers Liable

(As of September 2016)

  Commercial servers Social hosts   Commercial servers Social hosts
State Statute (1) Court (2) Statute (3) Court State Statute (1) Court (2) Statute (3) Court
Alabama X   X X Montana X X X  
Alaska X   X   Nebraska     X  
Arizona X X X X Nevada     X (4)  
Arkansas X X     New Hampshire X   X X
California X   X   New Jersey X   X X
Colorado X X X   New Mexico X   X X
Connecticut X X   X (4, 5) New York X   X  
Delaware         North Carolina X X X X (4)
D.C.   X (4)     North Dakota X   X  
Florida X   X X Ohio X X X X (4)
Georgia X   X   Oklahoma X X    
Hawaii   X X   Oregon X   X  
Idaho X X X   Pennsylvania X X   X (4)
Illinois X   X X Rhode Island X      
Indiana X X X X South Carolina X X X X (4)
Iowa X X X X (4) South Dakota        
Kansas         Tennessee X      
Kentucky X X   X (4) Texas X X X X
Louisiana X X X X Utah X   X X
Maine X   X   Vermont X   X X
Maryland         Virginia        
Massachusetts X X X X Washington X X X X (4)
Michigan X   X X (4) West Virginia X X (4)    
Minnesota X   X X Wisconsin X X X X
Mississippi X X X X Wyoming X   X X (4)
Missouri X                

(1) Indicates some form of liability is permitted by statute.
(2) States where common-law liability has not been specifically overruled by statute or where common-law actions are specifically recognized in addition to statutory liability.
(3) Indicates that language is capable of being read broadly enough to include noncommercial servers.
(4) For guests under the age of 21.
(5) Only if host either purveyed or supplied alcohol.

Source: Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.