Every single day, drunk driving accidents claim the lives of around 30 people in the United States. Shockingly, these accidents cost the United States approximately $44 billion every year.
September 11, 2023
Drunk driving is a serious issue in the United States. Every day, people get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, putting themselves and others at risk. According to a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drunk driving fatalities increased by 9.2% in 2020, despite fewer cars on the road due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Let's take a closer look at the drunk driving statistics in the United States.
Key Drunk Driving Statistics
In 2019, there were 10,142 people killed in drunk-driving crashes, accounting for 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
Every day, 29 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver.
In 2019, 1.5 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
14% of drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher who were involved in fatal crashes in 2019 were between 18 and 24 years old.
Drunk drivers are involved in about one-third of car crash fatalities in the U.S., which costs more than $44 billion annually, according to the NHTSA and CDC.
In 2018, alcohol-impaired drivers got behind the wheel of a car about 147 million times, and 32% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes while driving at night were drunk, according to the CDC and NHTSA.
Almost twice as many alcohol-related and fatal car crashes occur during the weekend, and there were four male alcohol-impaired drivers for every one female alcohol-impaired driver out on the road in 2017, as reported by NHTSA.
In 2019, an estimated 19% of drivers involved in fatal car crashes were alcohol-impaired, with percentages ranging from 11% in Utah to 34% in Rhode Island, based on NHTSA data.
According to the latest CDC High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey, about 6% of teens drove while drinking within the past 30 days, and nearly 17% admitted to driving with a driver who had been drinking. Males accounted for 7% of those who drove while drinking.
Despite less traffic on the road due to Covid, alcohol involvement was reported in 9% of crashes in 2020, and from March to September 2020, 27% of drivers were involved in alcohol-related serious or fatal crashes compared to 21% from September 2019 to March 2020, according to the NHTSA.
In 2020, California had the highest number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in the United States with 1,120 deaths, followed by Texas (886) and Florida (697), according to NHTSA data.
The average blood alcohol concentration (BAC) among drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes is .16%, which is twice the legal limit of .08%, as reported by the CDC.
Drivers who are under the influence of marijuana are about 25% more likely to be involved in a car crash compared to drivers who are sober, according to a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
In 2019, approximately one-third of all pedestrian fatalities involved alcohol-impaired drivers, according to NHTSA data.
According to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), ignition interlocks prevented more than 3.77 million attempts to drive drunk between December 2018 and December 2019.
Drunk Driving Statistics by State
Wyoming has the highest rate of drunk driving deaths per capita, with 7.59 deaths per 100,000 people, according to data from the NHTSA.
North Dakota has the second-highest rate of drunk driving deaths per capita, with 6.37 deaths per 100,000 people.
South Carolina has the third-highest rate of drunk driving deaths per capita, with 5.97 deaths per 100,000 people.
Texas had the most alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities in 2019 with a total of 886 deaths.
California had the second-most alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities in 2019 with a total of 1,120 deaths.
Hawaii had the fewest alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities in 2019 with a total of just nine deaths.
Drunk driving fatalities 2009-2018
District of Columbia
Drunk Driving Statistics by Age
Drivers aged 21-24 have the highest rate of involvement in fatal drunk driving accidents, with 28% of drivers involved in fatal crashes having a BAC of .08% or higher, according to NHTSA data.
In 2019, there were 1,908 drivers under the age of 21 who died in car crashes and nearly one out of four (24%) were drinking and driving, as reported by the CDC.
The percentage of drivers in fatal crashes who have been drinking generally decreases with increasing age. In 2019, for example, alcohol-impaired-drivers accounted for only 10% of drivers over age 65 involved in fatal crashes.
According to MADD, young people between the ages of 16 and 20 are more likely to drink and drive than older adults despite being too young to legally purchase or consume alcohol.
Drunk Driving Statistics by Gender
In 2019, almost four times as many male drivers were involved in fatal drunk-driving crashes compared to female drivers. Specifically, 8,578 male drivers and 2,564 female drivers were involved in alcohol-impaired crashes resulting in fatalities.
Male drivers accounted for 77% of all drunk driving cases in the U.S., according to NHTSA data from 2019.
Younger males between the ages of 21 and 34 are most likely to be involved in drunk driving accidents. In fact, this age group accounts for approximately one-third of all fatal crashes caused by alcohol-impaired drivers.
The percentage of female drivers with a BAC of .08% or higher who were involved in fatal crashes was lower than that of male drivers at just 20%, according to NHTSA data from 2019.
Drunk Driving Statistics by Race/Ethnicity
In 2019, Native Americans had the highest rate of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities per capita, with 3.2 deaths per 100,000 people, according to data from the NHTSA.
White drivers accounted for the highest number of drunk driving fatalities in 2019 with a total of 5,576 deaths.
African American drivers had the second-highest rate of involvement in fatal drunk driving accidents after Native Americans, accounting for 2.8 deaths per 100,000 people in 2019.
Hispanic and Latino drivers accounted for approximately one-quarter (25%) of all alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities in 2019.
Asian and Pacific Islander drivers had the lowest rate of involvement in fatal drunk driving accidents, accounting for just 0.7 deaths per 100,000 people.
Impaired Driving Statistics in the United States
About 1 million arrests are made in the United States each year for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. However, this represents only a small portion of impaired drivers on the road, according to national self-report surveys.
7.2% of U.S. residents ages 16 years and older drove under the influence of alcohol, which translates to an estimated 18.5 million people.
4.5% of U.S. residents ages 16 years and older drove under the influence of marijuana, which translates to an estimated 11.7 million people.
0.9% of U.S. residents ages 16 years and older drove under the influence of illicit drugs other than marijuana, which translates to an estimated 2.4 million people.
1.2% of adults drove after having too much to drink in the past 30 days.
This resulted in an estimated 127 million episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among US adults.
How Alcohol and Other Drugs Affect Driving Skills
Marijuana use can lead to slowed reaction time and decision-making, impaired coordination, and distorted perception, all of which can affect driving ability.
Other drugs, including cocaine and illicit amphetamines, can impair skills such as perception, memory, and attention in the short or long term.
Prescription and over-the-counter medications can also have side effects that impact driving ability, such as sleepiness, impaired vision, and impaired coordination.
Using multiple substances simultaneously, such as marijuana and alcohol, can increase impairment.
Effects of Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) on Individuals
At a BAC of 0.02%, individuals may experience a slight loss of judgment and altered mood.
At a BAC of 0.05%, individuals may experience reduced coordination, difficulty steering, and reduced response times.
At a BAC of 0.08%, which is the legal limit for driving in most states in the US, individuals may experience impaired perception, memory, and reasoning ability. They may also have difficulty concentrating and experience short-term memory loss.
At a BAC of 0.10%, individuals may have slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking.
At a BAC of 0.15%, individuals may have significant impairment in balance and movement control.
Drunk Driving: Consequences and Impacts
In 2019, drunk driving accidents resulted in approximately 10,142 fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The legal consequences of drunk driving can vary by state and are dependent on factors such as blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and prior convictions. Penalties can include fines, license suspension or revocation, and even jail time.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), every two minutes a person is injured in a drunk driving accident.
In addition to physical injuries and fatalities, drunk driving accidents can cause emotional trauma for victims and their families. This can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.
The financial consequences of a drunk driving conviction can be significant. In addition to legal fees and fines, individuals may face increased insurance rates or even job loss due to a revoked driver's license.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ignition interlock devices reduce repeat drunk driving offenses by about 70%.
In addition to criminal charges, individuals convicted of drunk driving may also face civil lawsuits from victims seeking compensation for damages.
According to MADD, the average cost of a first-time DUI conviction is approximately $6,500.
DUI Rates and Fatalities in the United States (2018-2019)
The DUI rate in the United States decreased by 5.3% from 2018 to 2019, with a total of 10,142 fatalities in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
In 2019, Rhode Island had the lowest DUI fatality rate per capita, with just 1.4 deaths per 100,000 people, while Mississippi had the highest rate with 7.8 deaths per 100,000 people.
The state with the largest decrease in DUI fatalities from 2018 to 2019 was New Hampshire with a decrease of 31%, while Alaska had the largest increase at almost 50%, as reported by NHTSA data.
According to a study conducted by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, over one-third of all drivers arrested or convicted of drunk driving are repeat offenders.
In addition to alcohol-impaired driving, drug-impaired driving is also a growing concern. In fact, according to NHTSA data from 2018, drugs were present in about half of all fatal crashes involving drivers who tested positive for drugs.
The Economic Cost of Drunk Driving
Drunk driving costs the United States approximately $44 billion annually, including medical expenses, property damage, and lost productivity.
The average cost of a DUI conviction is about $10,000, which includes legal fees, fines, and increased insurance rates.
In 2015, alcohol-impaired driving crashes cost each adult in the United States an average of $500.
The economic cost of drunk driving is highest for drivers between the ages of 21 and 34 years old.
From 2003 to 2012, the total economic cost of alcohol-related crashes in the United States was more than $240 billion.
Strategies for Preventing Drunk Driving
Preventing drunk driving is a complex issue that requires a multi-faceted approach. Effective strategies typically involve education, enforcement, and technology. Some measures that have been effective in reducing drunk driving include:
Public education campaigns: These campaigns aim to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving and encourage people to make responsible choices. They can be targeted at specific populations, such as young drivers or college students.
School-based programs: Programs that educate young people about the risks of impaired driving can help prevent drunk driving later in life.
Sobriety checkpoints: These are locations where law enforcement officers stop drivers to check for signs of impairment. Checkpoints can be set up on a regular basis or for special events like holidays.
Increase penalties: Tougher penalties can serve as a deterrent to drunk driving. This can include fines, jail time, community service, or license suspension/revocation.
Ignition interlock devices: These devices require a driver to blow into a breathalyzer before starting their vehicle. If the driver's BAC is above a certain level, the vehicle won't start.
Advanced vehicle technology: Newer cars are being equipped with technology that can detect if a driver is impaired and prevent the car from being driven.
By implementing a combination of these strategies, communities can work to reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes and fatalities on the roadways.
In conclusion, drunk driving remains a serious issue in the United States and continues to result in thousands of deaths and injuries each year. While progress has been made in reducing the number of alcohol-related crashes through education, enforcement, and technology, there is still much work to be done. It is important for individuals to understand the risks associated with impaired driving and make responsible choices.
Communities can also take steps to prevent drunk driving by implementing effective strategies such as public education campaigns, sobriety checkpoints, tougher penalties, ignition interlock devices, and advanced vehicle technology. By working together, we can continue to make progress in reducing the number of alcohol-related crashes on our roadways.
Wherever you are on your journey, Birch Tree Recovery can work alongside you to create a healthier life, establish self-connection, instill effective coping mechanisms, eliminate anxiety, depression and further the path of your individual success in recovery.