Facts + Statistics: Alcohol-impaired 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 48 minutes in 2017. 

Alcohol-impaired crashes are those that involve at least one driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter or above, the legal definition of impaired driving. According to NHTSA 10,874 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2017. Alcohol-impaired crash fatalities accounted for 29 percent of all crash fatalities.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates 1,017,808 drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2016. The arrest rate works out to one arrest for about every 215 licensed drivers in the United States.

The definition of alcohol-impaired driving was consistent throughout the United States until December 2018. All states and the District of Columbia except Utah define impairment as driving with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) at or above 0.08 grams per deciliter. In Utah, the BAC limit was lowered to 0.05 in December 2018. 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 grams per deciliter.

Campaigns against alcohol-impaired driving 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 impaired 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 an alcohol-impaired 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, 1985-2017

 

    Alcohol-impaired crash fatalities (1)
Year Total traffic fatalities  Number  As a percent of all crash death
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 32,894 10,110 31
2014 32,744 9,943 30
2015 35,485 10,320 30
2016 37,806 10,996 29
2017 37,133 10,874 29

(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 grams per deciliter or above, the legal definition of alcohol-impaired 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, 2008 And 2017 (1)

 

Age 2008 2017 Point change
16 to 20 17% 15% -2 pts.
21 to 24 34 27 -7
25 to 34 31 26 -5
35 to 44 25 23 -2
45 to 54 20 19 -1
55 to 64 12 15 3
65 to 74 6 9 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 (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter 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, 2017

 

    Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities (1)
Person type Total killed Number Percent of
total killed
Vehicle occupants      
Driver 18,726 6,158 33%
Passenger 6,174 1,830 30
Unknown occupant 73 2 2
Total 24,973 7,989 32%
Motorcyclists 5,172 1,704 33%
Nonoccupants      
Pedestrian 5,977 1,017 17
Pedalcyclist 783 126 16
Other/unknown 228 39 17
Total 6,988 1,181 17%
Total 37,133 10,874 29%

(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 grams per deciliter or greater, the legal definition of alcohol-impaired driving.

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

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State Laws Curbing Alcohol-Impaired Driving

(As of October 2018)

  Interlocks (1) required    
    To drive during post-conviction license suspension To reinstate license after conviction    
State To drive during ALS (2)
(first offense)
First offender Repeat offender First offender Repeat offender ALS (2) mandatory
90-day license suspension (3)
Open container law (4)
Alabama (5) X X   X X X
Alaska X X X X  
Arizona     X  X X X
Arkansas X X X     X X
California   X (6) X X (6) X (6) X X
Colorado X X   X X X
Connecticut (5) (5) (5) X X X  
Delaware (5) X X X X X  
D.C.   X X       X
Florida   (7) X (7) X X X
Georgia     X   X X X
Hawaii X X X X X X X
Idaho   (7) (5) X X X X
Illinois X   X   X X X
Indiana           X X
Iowa X X X   X X X
Kansas (5) (5) X X X   X
Kentucky (8) (7) X (7) X   X
Louisiana   X X     X  
Maine     X     X X
Maryland   X X X X X X
Massachusetts (5)   X   X X X
Michigan (8) (7) X   X   X
Minnesota (7) (7) X     X X
Mississippi X X     X  
Missouri       X X  
Montana (7)           X
Nebraska X X X X X X
Nevada X X X X X X X
New Hampshire (5) X (5)   X X X
New Jersey (8) (5) (5) (7) X   X
New Mexico X X X X X X X
New York (8) X X X X   X
North Carolina   (7) (5) (7) X   X
North Dakota           X X
Ohio     X     X X
Oklahoma X X X   X X X
Oregon   X X X X X X
Pennsylvania (8) (7) X (7) X   X
Rhode Island (8) X X   X   X
South Carolina (8) (7) (5) (7) X   X
South Dakota (8)           X
Tennessee (8) X X   X X X
Texas   X X   X X X
Utah   (5) (5) X X X X
Vermont X X X     X X
Virginia (5) X X   X   X
Washington X X X X X X X
West Virginia X X X   X X X
Wisconsin           X X
Wyoming     X (7) 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) Administrative license suspension, 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 are arrested for alcohol-impaired driving or if BAC is over the legal limit 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 requirements.
(5) No option for driving during suspension.
(6) In four counties.
(7) State does not require interlocks except under certain conditions; see IIHS website.
(8) State has no administrative license suspension for first test failure.

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 February 2019)

  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    
Hawaii   X X   Oregon X 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: American Property Casualty Insurers Association.

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