Impaired Driving: Get the Facts Transportation Safety Injury Center

In 2020, 11,654 Americans were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Alcohol-related accidents accounted for nearly one-third of all traffic-related deaths. More than 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2014. National surveys also reveal that males and people ages 21 to 45 are the most likely to drive after drinking. Although drivers ages 16 to 20 accounted for only 12 million of 957 million drinking–driving trips in 1999, the average BAC among young drinking drivers was 0.10 percent, more than three times the average BAC level for all drinking drivers. Drivers under 21 in all States tend to drive with more passengers in their vehicles.

  • The average recidivism rate among those who did not receive treatment was 19 percent over a 2-year period.
  • Many state laws require at least some DUI offenders to participate in substance abuse education or treatment.
  • A person’s BAC is determined by his or her drinking rate and by the body’s absorption, distribution, and metabolism of the alcohol.
  • Nationally, the number of arrests for drinking and driving increased sharply from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, but were substantially lower in the 1990s.
  • A recent study that looked at 15 years of U.S. crash data found that about 15% of alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities involve drivers with a BAC below 0.08%.
  • This astonishing figure accounts for 28% of all traffic fatalities that year.

Young adult drivers (ages 21-34) with a 0.08 BAC are 12 times as likely to be in a fatal car crash than drivers who haven’t had alcohol. With 28 people dying every day in America due to drunk driving, it’s essential that our country increases the education and awareness for drinking and driving. The majority of DUI arrests and alcohol-related crashes are committed by repeat offenders; over half of arrests include drivers with a suspended license.

Drunk Driving: Causes, Risks and Treatment

Alcohol-influenced brains take longer to process situations and respond to them, making it challenging to react fast enough to avoid a collision, such as if an animal suddenly crosses the road or a pedestrian steps into the road. Motor vehicle wrecks are the leading cause of death in the United States for persons between 15 and 24, whether as the driver or the passenger. Among drivers ages who die in crashes, around one in five had at least some alcohol in their system.

consequences of drinking and driving

This age range is connected to college-aged students, presenting a dangerous connection between frequent drinkers who may also be overly-confident drunk drivers. All of these numbers were higher than noncollege students of the same age. Zero-tolerance laws in all States reinforce this message by setting a maximum BAC limit of less than .02 g/dL or less for drivers under 21. This effectively prohibits driving after drinking any amount of alcohol. Presently, zero-tolerance laws are not actively publicized or enforced by many States. In addition, compliance checks of alcohol vendors can reduce the availability of alcohol to those under 21, though again this strategy is not used as widely as it could be.

NHTSA is dedicated to eliminating risky behaviors on our nation’s roads

A 2020 survey found that 25% of all traffic related deaths are tied to alcohol use. It is a widely known fact that driving a vehicle after drinking is a dangerous choice. Alcohol has been proven to impair our coordination, our ability to make sound judgments and our vision. When combined, this can be a lethal combination behind the wheel of a vehicle. A DUI conviction can damage a person’s reputation in the community and strain relationships with friends and family.

Meanwhile, the light had been green for half a minute, shining on you idling in the middle of the road. Individuals subject to background checks for employment or other purposes often experience a DUI resulting in complications for certain types of employment. Even though it may not appear in some types of background checks or searches years after an individual has committed the offense, there is always a record of it somewhere. After an individual is arrested for a DUI-type offense, they will go to court for an arraignment. At the arraignment, the individual will be formally charged with a criminal offense and will be allowed to plead guilty or not guilty.

Zero Tolerance Laws

An impaired driving incident will also result in driver’s license penalties. In a small study that interviewed 72 young adults across Montana about reasons for drinking and driving, participants cite a lack of transportation options (9). Some say even asking someone else for a ride or using the designated driver method could be considered unreasonable because people often live far from each other.

In the United States, blood alcohol measurements are based on the amount of alcohol, by weight, in a set volume of blood. For example, a BAC of 0.10 percent—a level at which it is illegal to drive in the United States—is the equivalent of 0.10 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. This translates, by weight, to a proportion of just under 1 gram of alcohol for every 1,000 grams of blood in the body (Jones and Pounder 1998).

License Suspensions for DUI Convictions

All states have laws prohibiting driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. Whether the offense is labeled “DUI,” “DWI” (driving while intoxicated), or “OUI” (operating under the influence), the consequences are generally severe. Though the specifics differ by state, penalties often include license suspension, fines, fees, ignition interlock device (IID) installation, and jail time. This section examines trends in drinking and driving over approximately the past 20 years.

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