People continue to drive impaired, but good enforcement can deter them.
Progress has been made during the past 20 years to reduce the proportion of fatally injured drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent. Proportions are lower in all age groups and among drivers of passenger vehicles, tractor-trailers, and motorcycles. There also has been a substantial decline among those with very high BACs (at or above 0.15 percent), who often are assumed to be "hard-core" drinking drivers. However, progress has stalled in recent years and alcohol-impaired driving is still a major problem.
All states now have enacted a law defining impairment as driving with a BAC at or above 0.08 percent. All states also have "zero tolerance" laws that prohibit people younger than 21 from driving after drinking. Typically, these laws prohibit driving with a BAC of 0.02 percent or greater. A BAC as low as 0.02 percent has been shown to affect driving ability. The probability of a fatal crash rises significantly after 0.05 percent BAC and even more rapidly after about 0.08 percent. Among drivers age 35 and older with BACs at or above 0.15 percent on weekend nights, the likelihood of dying in a single-vehicle crash is 382 times higher than it is for nondrinking drivers.
Zador, P.L.; Krawchuck, S.; and Voas, R.B. 2000. Alcohol-related relative risk of driver fatalities and driver involvement in fatal crashes in relation to driver age and gender. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 61:387-96.
The information in this fact sheet is based on data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia with imputations for missing BACs provided by the US Department of Transportation's multiple imputation model.
Subramanian, R. 2002. Transitioning to multiple imputation — a new method to impute missing blood alcohol concentration (BAC) values in FARS. Report no. DOT HS-809-403. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
The percentage of fatally injured motor vehicle drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent declined steadily from the 1980s to the mid-1990s. Since then little progress has been made. The proportion of fatally injured pedestrians with BACs at or above 0.08 percent hasn't declined as much. Since 1997 about a third of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers have had BACs at or above 0.08 percent. The group of drivers with the lowest proportion was tractor-trailer drivers (2 percent).
Percent of fatally injured people with BACs≥ 0.08 percent by type, 1982-2005
The percentage of fatally injured drivers with BACs at or above 0.15 percent has declined 37 percent since 1982 but with little change since 1997. The proportion of driver deaths involving BACs at or above 0.15 percent in 2005 was 24 percent for passenger vehicles and 16 percent for motorcycles. A higher percentage of pedestrians (27 percent) had BACs at or above 0.15 percent than any group of drivers.
Among fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2005, a higher proportion of males than females had BACs at or above 0.08 percent at every age. Overall 38 percent of males and 19 percent of females had BACs at or above 0.08 percent. The percentage was highest among males ages 21-40.
Among fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2005, 28 percent of males and 14 percent of females had BACs at or above 0.15 percent.
Since the 1980s the proportion of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent declined more among 16-20 year-olds than among older drivers, but these declines ended in 1995.
Percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by driver age, 1982-2005
Alcohol involvement in fatal crashes peaks at night. Between 9pm and 6am, 58 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2005 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 19 percent during other hours.
Forty-five percent of passenger vehicle drivers fatally injured on weekends (6pm Friday to 6am Monday) in 2005 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 24 percent at other times.
Alcohol involvement is highest in nighttime (9pm to 6am) single-vehicle crashes, in which 66 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2005 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent. Only 28 percent of the fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers involved in nighttime single-vehicle crashes had no alcohol in their blood. Changes in nighttime single-vehicle crashes often are used to measure the changing role of alcohol in highway crashes and crash deaths.
©1996-2015, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
Subscribe to news updates
Watch our channel
Mobile ratings & news