Drunk driving endangers lives; it increases the insurance cost for drivers across the US as well, to say the least. When looking at the overall drunk driving statistics though, one can infer that the attitude towards alcohol-impaired driving has changed over the last few years and a lot of this comes down to positive organizational movements.
Still, there are several drivers who admit to drunk driving, injuries and fatalities caused by DUI, and college students who think that it’s safe to drive even after having a few drinks.
Data like this obviously shows a cause for concern, proving that there is an ongoing issue. Let’s dive deeper into the matter with the following stats on drunk driving, deaths, DUI accidents, and more.
Most Terrifying Drinking and Driving Statistics — Editor’s Pick
- In 2016, over 1 million drivers were arrested for DUI (of both drugs and alcohol).
- 17% of all traffic deaths among those aged between 0–14 involve some kind of alcohol.
- If you have a blood alcohol content or BAC that’s above 0.08%, it’s illegal for you to drive. In Utah, the current BAC level is 0.05%.
- There were 10,511 fatalities caused by drunk drivers in 2018, which translates to 29% of all traffic deaths.
- 37.4% of college-aged respondents think they are fit to drive after 3–4 drinks.
Drunk Driving Deaths by Year
1. 31% of all 2010 traffic fatalities involved a driver with a BAC of .08
In the US, a driver or vehicle operator is considered alcohol-impaired if they have a blood alcohol concentration (or BAC for short) of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. As such, traffic deaths caused by alcohol-impaired drivers are then classified as drunk driving fatalities. Such fatalities reached a staggering 10,288 in 2010; meaning, every 51 minutes, one alcohol-impaired driving crash occurred.
2. In 2016, there were, once again, over 10,000 deaths that resulted from drunk-driver collisions
More precisely, 10,497 people died in car crashes due to alcohol-impaired drivers. Despite this, in 2016, the total fatalities of said crashes accounted for just 28% of all US traffic deaths, statistics on DUI reveal.
3. That same year, over 1 million drivers have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (and drugs)
The issue becomes even more troublesome when you consider the total number of yearly self-reported instances of drunk driving among US adults — 111 million.
Moreover, both illicit and legitimate drugs were involved in 16% of all vehicle crashes.
4. Montana had the highest alcohol-related fatality rate (45%) in 2016, as shown by drunk driving stats
(Source: Zero DUI Deaths)
Out of 187 traffic fatalities on Montana roads, 66 cases were declared as DUI deaths. At the time, the state of Montana had the highest drunk driving death rate of 45%; at least one driver with a BAC higher than .08 was involved in said accidents.
5. 10,511 fatalities were caused by drunk drivers in 2018, which roughly translates to 29% of all traffic deaths for that year
Overall, drunk driving statistics show that in a span of 10 years, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities declined by 2%, from 10,759 (in 2009) to 10,511 (in 2018). The death rate likewise decreased by 8%, from 0.36 to 0.33.
Drunk Driving Prevention Statistics
6. Congress set the legal drinking age to 21 over 40 years ago, and since then, 31,959 lives have been saved
Drunk driver statistics from NHTSA have shown that for every arrest, another 500 incidents go unpunished. Studies have also shown that 50% of teenagers who die in car accidents are, in fact, passengers, not drivers.
7. MADD is but one of many civilian-based organizations that make underage drinking one of their primary concerns
(Source: The Zebra)
The organization found that 2,000 college students, aged between 18 and 24, die on a yearly basis from injuries sustained due to alcohol. Those who are of college age are involved in 19% of drunk-driving accidents.
Meanwhile, 18% of those who are under 21 have admitted to some form of drunk-driving in the past. DUI statistics also show that male college students are much more likely to engage in any form of risky behavior. Yet, when it comes to drunk-driving, both males and females are equally likely.
Drunk Driving Facts by Age
8. 27% of drunk drivers are between 21–24 years of age
2017 data from the NHTSA shows that drunk driving is highly prevalent among the 21–24 age group, followed by drivers aged 25 to 34 (26%). The 10-year trend also sheds light on the fact that alcohol impairment increased among older drivers compared to younger ones.
9. Shocking statistics on DUI: 17% of all traffic deaths among children aged between 0–14 involve some kind of alcohol
Of the 1,233 road fatalities among children aged 0–14, 17%, or 214 of them, involved a driver who was under the influence of alcohol. Facts like this one should make anyone think twice about sitting behind the wheel when drunk ever again.
10. In 2014, drivers between 21 and 34 years of age accounted for 59% of all motorists who drink and drive, as revealed by drinking and driving statistics
Two out of three people are involved in some kind of drunk driving accident at some point in their lifetime. Additionally, every two minutes, someone is injured in a crash that involves a drunk driver.
11. 37.4% of college-aged respondents think they are fit to drive after having 3–4 drinks
(Source: The Zebra)
Meanwhile, when looking at the stats for the 18–24 age group, they seem to be more cautious as 50% of them said that they use rideshare services — such as Uber, Lyft, etc. — when they go out drinking. On the other hand, reports for all ages show that a whopping 60% don’t even bother with rideshare services at all.
DUI Stats and Facts
12. The impact of alcohol on the human body is extensive, to say the least. It really does affect nearly every organ in the body
(Source: Alcohol Rehab Guide)
Some effects that you should be aware of include drowsiness, distorted vision, slowed response time, memory lapses, poor decision making, unconsciousness, and a lowered level of coordination. None of these are particularly safe when operating any kind of motor vehicle, as shown by our drunk driving statistics.
13. DUI is an acronym for driving under the influence, whereas DWI means to drive while intoxicated, or impaired
(Source: Alcohol Rehab Guide)
The difference between these two acronyms can vary depending on the state you live in. Some states do not see any kind of legal difference at all. Either way, it’s a serious problem in the US and it does come with its own set of severe punishments.
So, what does being legally drunk mean?
14. According to statistics on drunk driving, if you have a blood alcohol content (or BAC) that’s above 0.08%, this means that it’s illegal for you to drive. In Utah, the current BAC level is 0.05%
According to the NHTSA, 1.5 million people are arrested for being under the influence every year. That equates to 1 out of every 120 drivers. Bad decisions are more common when you are drunk — hence why you need to make sure that you drive ahead of time and that you never drive unless you are completely sober.
15. The more alcohol you drink, the more you flood your bloodstream with harmful toxins, increasing your impairment in the process
(Source: Alcohol Rehab Guide)
When driving under the influence, accidents are indeed fuelled by those who are over the alcohol limit.
To help you understand how drinking affects one’s behavior and motor skills, we outlined how each BAC level could impair you, from lowest to highest:
When you have an extremely low amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, you will experience a slight loss of judgment, as well as an altered mood. You may also find that your visual functioning is impaired and that it’s harder for you to do two different tasks, simultaneously.
When your BAC reaches 0.5%, you will no longer have the same level of inhibition and your behavior becomes more exaggerated as well. According to drinking and driving statistics, your eye focus is also reduced, leaving you with lower levels of small muscle control. Likewise, your alertness is lowered, as is your coordination.
At this point, balance, reaction time, vision, speech, and even hearing become poor. Your self-control, level of reasoning, and memory will all be impaired, and you may even find that your perception is affected too. You will not be able to process information as you normally would. As a result, crash risk increases significantly at this level, as revealed by drunk driver statistics.
Reaction time and level of control deteriorate greatly. Slurred-like speech will now be prominent, along with a decline in cognitive abilities. Your ability to brake and maintain lane positioning will also be seriously affected.
Your level of muscle control will be impacted considerably, resulting in a loss of balance. Your auditory and visual levels of processing information will also be drastically affected. You will not be able to maintain control over your vehicle either.
16. Mind-blowing drinking and driving statistics trivia: a 34-year-old man from Rhode Island broke the state’s record by having a BAC level of 0.491
(Source: ABC News)
In other words, he had a potentially lethal blood alcohol level — over 6 times the state’s limit! Luckily, nothing serious happened; he smashed his car into an electronic post and stayed at the local hospital for two days.
17. Cannabis-related DUI is against the law in the US, yet data from 2014–2017 suggests that drivers testing positive for marijuana increased
The percentage of drivers testing positive for THC was 8.6% in 2007. In 2013 and 2014 — 12.6%. Meaning, there was a total increase of 47% when looking at the long-term statistics on DUI.
18. Getting a DUI is quite possibly one of the most costly mistakes that any driver could make, especially in the case of car insurance
(Source: The Zebra)
A report released by The Zebra shows that a single DUI violation could potentially boost your insurance rate by over 73.9%.
How to Avoid Drunk Driving
It doesn’t matter whether you live in the US or you’re just visiting; you have to abide by local laws. Sure, drinking is fun and all but having too much is never a good idea.
Drunk driving statistics aside, we present you with some useful tips to keep in mind:
- Arrange a designated driver among your friends. You need someone who is going to abstain from alcohol the entire night to take all of you home safely.
- You can catch the last train or bus, or perhaps hail a taxi or use a rideshare service instead.
- If you are with someone whom you suspect is over the limit, make sure they don’t drive. Take their keys and call them a taxi to stay on the safe side.
- Remember, you don’t have to drink if you want to have a good night out. Mocktails and alcohol-free beers are often widely available, which is a fantastic way to have a great time without compromising your safety or the safety of others.
DUI deaths per year indicate that drunk driving remains a serious issue in the US. Alcohol can affect your reaction time and seriously impact your ability to make decisions. Drunk-drivers are not only putting themselves in danger but others as well. So, if you want to stay safe, then the best thing you could possibly do is avoid drinking altogether.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How many deaths are caused by drunk driving?
Drunk driving accident statistics (2018) revealed that there have been 10,511 reported deaths as a result of drunk driving crashes. That same year, NHTSA estimated that every 50 minutes, one person died from alcohol-related collisions in the US.
2. What percentage of car accidents are caused by alcohol?
Stats from FADD show that drunk drivers are accountable for over 50% of all motor vehicle crashes. When it comes to fatal highway car crashes, 50% of them involve some kind of alcohol. Each year, about 74,000 people suffer serious injuries from alcohol-related crashes.
3. How many children are killed by drunk drivers every year?
Data varies by year and state if you look at the overall drunk driving statistics. In 2016 alone, there were 1,233 traffic deaths among children aged 0–14 due to drunk drivers. This was noticeably lower than the number of child deaths between 2001 and 2010, which was 2,344.
4. What time of day do most drunk driving accidents occur?
According to reports, Saturday is the most dangerous day to drive since there are more drunk drivers on the road. 31% of fatal drunk driving crashes occur on weekends; between 12–3 AM, you’ll see the highest number of drunk drivers on the road.