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  • Given its widespread use, it’s easy to forget that alcohol is a psychoactive substance that significantly impairs a person’s thinking, judgment, coordination, reaction time, and memory with even moderate use.

    And, because of these effects, drunk driving kills over ten thousand Americans each year

    Driving under the influence injures far more, despite decades of public education campaigns, a high legal drinking age, and other measures taken to curb drunk driving.

    National Drunk Driving Statistics

    Alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes and fatalities have been declining over time, according to traffic safety facts published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

    Some recent data on drunk driving in the U.S. include:

    • in 2018, there were 10,511 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes in which at least one driver had a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .08% or more (29% of all traffic fatalities for the year)
    • 67% of fatal car crashes during in 2018 involved at least one driver with extremely high BAC levels of .15% or more
    • the estimated economic cost of all alcohol-impaired crashes was $44 billion in 2010 (the most recent year for which cost data is available)
    • those 21-24 years old had the highest percentage (27%) of drivers with BACs of .08 or over in fatal crashes compared to other age groups
    • the percentage of drivers with BACs of .08 or higher involved in fatal traffic deaths was highest for motorcyclists (25%), compared to drivers of passenger cars (21%), light trucks (19%), and large trucks (3%)
    • alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2018 was 3.4 times higher at night than during the day

    Total Driving Crashes

    In 2019, there were 36,096 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes. This equals a fatality rate of 1.10 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, the lowest rate since 2014.

    In addition, there were fewer passenger vehicle occupant fatalities, pedestrian fatalities, cyclist fatalities, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, and urban fatalities than in 2018.

    Drunk Driving Crashes By State

    According to NHTSA statistics from 2018, the five states with the most alcohol-related fatalities/DUI arrests per 100,000 people are:

    • Wyoming (5.89 / 676.10)
    • South Dakota (5.10 / 721.93)
    • Montana (7.44 / 381.24)
    • North Dakota (3.82 / 678.35)
    • Mississippi (5.46 / 462.21)

    The states with the fewest alcohol-related fatal crashes/DUI arrests per 100,000 people are:

    • Massachusetts (1.74 / 140.71)
    • Delaware ( 2.90 / 44.29)
    • Illinois (2.43 / 98.59)
    • New Jersey (1.40 / 219.64)
    • Ohio (2.52 / 152.28)

    Drunk Driving Fatalities By Age Group

    In 2018, the percentage of total alcohol-impaired drivers involved in traffic fatalities by age group were as follows:

    • 16-20 : 7.88%
    • 21-24 : 9.27%
    • 25-34 : 20.85%
    • 35-44 : 15.75%
    • 45-54 : 15.27%
    • 55-65 : 14.10%
    • 65-75 : 8.19%
    • 75+ : 6.01%

    Effects Of Alcohol On Drunk Drivers

    Alcohol impairment varies depending on a person’s blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, and can interfere with one’s ability to drive in a number of ways:

    • slower reaction times
    • altered vision and perception
    • impaired night vision
    • reduced attentiveness
    • impaired internal balance and external tracking
    • reduced personal judgment and increased tolerance for risk

    The legal limit for a driver’s BAC is .08%, though the influence of alcohol can lead to drunk driving and traffic accidents at lower concentrations for some people.

    DUIs, Drunk Driving Accidents, & Car Insurance

    The impact of a DUI/DWI or alcohol-related crash on a person’s car insurance rates varies from state to state, and may also vary depending on other details of the case. 

    According to some estimates, the average insurance rate increase in the United States following a DUI is around 70% or more each month. You may also be required to purchase additional insurance until the violations fall off your driving record after three to five years. 

    Ignition interlocks (in-car breathalyzer devices that can disable your vehicle if your BAC is too high) may be mandated by the court or heavily incentivized, especially for repeat offenders or those arrested with unusually high blood alcohol levels.

    If you or a loved one needs professional care for heavy alcohol abuse, please contact us today to learn about our treatment options.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Forbes Advisor - How Long Does A DUI Stay On Your Record?
    Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) - Statistics
    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - 2018 Data: Alcohol-Impaired Driving
    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - Drunk Driving
    U.S Department of Transportation - Overview of the 2019 Crash Investigation Sampling System

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