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 50 minutes in 2016.

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 impaired driving. According to NHTSA 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2016, up 1.7 percent from 10,320 in 2015. In 2016 alcohol-impaired crash fatalities accounted for 28 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 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.

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, 1985-2016

    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 32,894 10,110 31
2014 32,744 9,943 30
2015 35,485 10,320 30
2016 37,461 10,497 28

(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 alcohol-impaired driving.

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

View Archived Tables

Percent Of Alcohol-Impaired Drivers Involved In Fatal Crashes By Age, 2007 And 2016 (1)

Age 2007 2016 Point change
16 to 20 18% 15% -3 pts.
21 to 24 34 26 -8
25 to 34 29 27 -2
35 to 44 25 22 -3
45 to 54 20 19 -1
55 to 64 12 14 2
65 to 74 7 9 2
Over 74 4 5 1

(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 alcohol-impaired driving.

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

View Archived Tables

Persons Killed In Total And Alcohol-Impaired Crashes By Person Type, 2016

    Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities (1)
Person type Total killed Number Percent oftotal killed
Vehicle occupants      
     Driver 18,610 6,067 33%
     Passenger 6,407 1,880 29
     Unknown occupant 79 2 2
     Total 25,096 7,949 32%
Motorcyclists 5,286 1,600 30%
Nonoccupants      
     Pedestrian 5,987 807 13
     Pedalcyclist 840 91 11
     Other/unknown 252 50 20
     Total 7,079 948 13%
Total 37,461 10,497 28%

(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.

View Archived Tables

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   * X * X X X
Georgia     X   X X X
Hawaii X X X X X X X
Idaho   * (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 (7) * X * X   X
Louisiana   X X     X  
Maine     X     X X
Maryland   X X X X X X
Massachusetts (5)   X   X X X
Michigan (7) * X   X   X
Minnesota * * 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 (7) (5) (5) * X   X
New Mexico X X X X X X X
New York (7) X X X X   X
North Carolina   * (5) * 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 (7) * X * X   X
Rhode Island (7) X X   X   X
South Carolina (7) * (5) * X   X
South Dakota (7)           X
Tennessee (7) 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 * 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 has no administrative license suspension for first test failure.

* State does not require interlocks except under certain conditions; see IIHS website.
** Effective January 1, 2019.

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

View Archived Tables

Statutes Or Court Cases Holding Alcoholic Beverage Servers Liable

(As of October 2018)

  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.

Back to top

Auto
Background on: Alcohol-impaired driving
Homeowners + Renters Insurance | Other Insurance Topics
Social host liability