Alcohol | 2005

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).

Trends

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

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured people with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent, 1982-2005
YearAll driversPassenger vehicle driversTractor-trailer driversMotorcycle driversPedestrians (age ≥ 16)
DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumNum%NumNum%NumNum%NumNum%NumNum%
198224,69012,1394919,66310,0235160097163,7231,810495,9932,66845
198324,13811,5434819,3379,5294961583133,5921,783505,5822,48645
198425,58911,4994520,2989,3784672090133,8961,834475,7552,43942
198525,33710,6854220,0578,6744363269113,8961,756455,5392,26341
198626,63011,4094321,5039,396445894583,7901,772475,5472,24240
198726,83311,0584122,1579,343425594073,4091,499445,5972,17639
198827,25311,1034122,8849,580426145283,1391,338435,7012,16238
198926,38910,6374022,5549,2004154654102,6821,233465,5572,18639
199025,75010,3954021,9538,973414363992,7901,235445,4882,13739
199123,9309,4854020,5518,242404072872,4041,059444,8801,89539
199222,5848,4523719,5737,434383691852,079873424,7341,86139
199323,1428,3223620,0367,328373831742,120825394,7401,85639
199423,6917,9133320,6447,083343882361,995663334,6371,71837
199524,3908,3073421,4567,488354002151,939664344,7831,79337
199624,5348,1753321,6317,336343842051,881683364,6701,80439
199724,6677,8433221,7027,062334271331,878622334,6211,63835
199824,7437,8343221,6276,944324412042,026716354,5971,67837
199925,2577,9183121,8996,994324711432,223736334,3251,64638
200025,5678,1663221,8197,127334571432,591847334,1921,53437
200125,8698,2523221,8627,205334141232,886853304,3681,55836
200226,6598,5153222,5377,381334092562,952940324,3671,58436
200326,7798,3543122,2007,120324351743,3581,010304,2981,56036
200426,8718,1553021,9526,952324401433,593995284,2371,52836
200527,4728,5153121,8807,117334811124,1221,124274,4311,52434

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.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured people with BACs ≥ 0.15 percent, 1982-2005
YearAll driversPassenger vehicle driversTractor-trailer driversMotorcycle driversPedestrians (age ≥ 16)
DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.15DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.15DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.15DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.15DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.15
NumNum%NumNum%NumNum%NumNum%NumNum%
198224,6908,6603519,6637,3283760059103,7231,136305,9932,07735
198324,1388,2403419,3376,969366155793,5921,115315,5821,94535
198425,5898,2033220,2986,864347205983,8961,136295,7551,88633
198525,3377,5213020,0576,269316324473,8961,085285,5391,73231
198626,6308,0773021,5036,783325892643,7901,144305,5471,73031
198726,8337,9683022,1576,854315592343,409966285,5971,73531
198827,2538,1143022,8847,126316143253,139862275,7011,68830
198926,3897,7742922,5546,847305463972,682791295,5571,70631
199025,7507,6313021,9536,670304362462,790824305,4881,69731
199123,9307,0142920,5516,192304072052,404697294,8801,51231
199222,5846,2582819,5735,569283691232,079590284,7341,47431
199323,1426,1042620,0365,494273831022,120505244,7401,49932
199423,6915,8492520,6445,326263881741,995411214,6371,35529
199524,3906,0182521,4565,495264001131,939415214,7831,39429
199624,5345,9252421,6315,383253841441,881440234,6701,43331
199724,6675,6682321,7025,158244271121,878400214,6211,32929
199824,7435,6922321,6275,127244411532,026449224,5971,33229
199925,2575,6782221,8995,108234711022,223440204,3251,29230
200025,5675,8012321,8195,13824457412,591539214,1921,20429
200125,8695,9762321,8625,328244141022,886522184,3681,23228
200226,6596,1462322,5375,463244091542,952564194,3671,26729
200326,7796,0102222,2005,258244351133,358609184,2981,25429
200426,8715,8372221,9525,08923440923,593614174,2371,19528
200527,4726,0922221,8805,23124481714,122670164,4311,20327

Age and gender

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.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by driver age and gender, 2005
AgeMaleFemaleTotal*
Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumNum%NumNum%NumNum%
0-1551122425518761722
16-202,12561829853125152,97874325
21-303,8302,141561,210362305,0402,50250
31-402,3951,21751955293313,3501,51045
41-502,3531,026441,009273273,3621,29839
51-601,77453130816102122,59063324
61-701,183216186104071,79325714
> 701,78911568812832,6711435
Total*15,5175,887386,3601,2281921,8807,11733
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

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.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.15 percent by driver age and gender, 2005
AgeMaleFemaleTotal*
Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.15Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.15Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.15
NumNum%NumNum%NumNum%
0-1551613251676810
16-202,125382188537792,97845915
21-303,8301,553411,210250215,0401,80336
31-402,39596840955217233,3501,18535
41-502,353798341,009210213,3621,00830
51-601,774409238167492,59048319
61-701,183165146102851,79319311
> 701,7896648811622,671823
Total*15,5174,356286,3608741421,8805,23124
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

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

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by driver age, 1982-2005
Year16-2021-30>30
Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumNum%NumNum%NumNum%
19823,4561,826536,2433,948639,8614,20843
19833,3261,681516,0533,859649,8443,94340
19843,4411,595466,4113,8856110,3373,86037
19853,2271,260396,2623,6595810,4413,71336
19863,6361,495416,6953,9745911,0423,88735
19873,6301,315366,8023,9755811,5794,01635
19883,7881,358366,8193,9915912,1454,20335
19893,5361,225356,4753,6755712,4014,27234
19903,3971,198356,1523,5105712,2744,23835
19913,0211,044355,6233,1835711,8013,99334
19922,697829315,1222,7595411,6393,82333
19932,805795285,0652,6585212,0383,85132
19942,990800274,9752,4845012,5223,77130
19952,983725245,0812,5855113,2464,15531
19963,026769254,9892,4755013,4784,07030
19973,034773254,7722,2724813,7734,00129
19983,094767254,5772,2224913,8393,93028
19993,261849264,6532,2604913,8703,86628
20003,250844264,7062,2684813,7433,99729
20013,247823254,7352,3585013,7904,00529
20023,452873254,9382,4625014,0064,02029
20033,260858264,8522,3084813,9573,93028
20043,175815264,9702,3724813,6893,74327
20052,978743255,0402,5025013,7663,84228

When alcohol-impaired crashed occurred

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.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with high BACs at night vs. other times, 2005
Time of dayDrivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.15
NumNum%Num%
9pm-6am7,7164,493583,34243
Other hours14,1642,624191,88913
Total21,8807,117335,23124
Estimated number and percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers
with high BACs by time of day, 2005
Time of dayDrivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.15
NumNum%Num%
Midnight-3am2,9452,001681,50051
3am-6am1,9341,0035270536
6am-9am2,470310132038
9am-noon2,27719491286
Noon-3pm2,929321112378
3pm-6pm3,4526461945713
6pm-9pm2,8291,0293677127
9pm-midnight2,8371,490531,13840
Total*21,8807,117335,23124
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

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.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with high BACs by weekend vs. other times, 2005
Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.15
NumNum%Num%
Weekend8,7683,935452,90833
Other times13,1123,181242,32318
Total21,8807,117335,23124

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.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers by BAC, time, and crash type, 2005
Drivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs = 0Estimated drivers killed with 0.01≤ BACs ≤ 0.07Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.15
NumNum%Num%Num%Num%
Single vehicleNight5,1781,4572828453,437662,56750
Day5,4993,6196623441,646301,21322
Multiple vehicleNight2,5311,3445313551,0524277130
Day8,4557,329872743852105827

References