Fatality Facts 2019Alcohol

Overview

The probability of a fatal crash rises significantly after 0.05 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and even more rapidly after 0.08 percent. 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: an update using 1996 data. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 61:387-95. Voas, R.B.; Torres, P.; Romano, E.; and Lacey, J.H. 2012. Alcohol-related risk of driver fatalities: an update using 2007 data. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 73(3):341-350.

Drivers with very high BACs (at or above 0.15 percent) have a very high risk of dying in a crash or getting severely injured. 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: an update using 1996 data. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 61:387-95. , Peck, R.C.; Gebers, M.A.; Voas, R.B.; and Romano, E. 2008. The relationship between blood alcohol concentration (BAC), age, and crash risk. Journal of Safety Research 39:311-19.

Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have per se laws making it a crime to drive with a BAC at or above 0.08 percent. In Utah, it's a crime to drive with a BAC of 0.05 percent or above.

Substantial progress was made from 1982 to the mid-1990s in reducing the numbers and proportion of fatally injured drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent. However, little subsequent progress has been made, and alcohol-impaired driving is still a major problem. Institute research estimates that 25 percent of crash deaths could be prevented each year if all drivers with BACs of 0.08 percent or higher were kept off the roads. Farmer, C.M. 2021. Potential lives saved by in-vehicle alcohol detection systems. Traffic Injury Prevention 22:7-12.

At the same BAC, drivers younger than 21 are far more likely than older drivers to get into a fatal or nonfatal crash. 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: an update using 1996 data. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 61:387-95. Voas, R.B.; Torres, P.; Romano, E.; and Lacey, J.H. 2012. Alcohol-related risk of driver fatalities: an update using 2007 data. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 73(3):341-350. Peck, R.C.; Gebers, M.A.; Voas, R.B.; and Romano, E. 2008. The relationship between blood alcohol concentration (BAC), age, and crash risk. Journal of Safety Research 39:311-19.The minimum drinking age is 21 throughout the United States. In addition, all states have "zero tolerance" laws that prohibit people younger than 21 from driving after drinking. In recent years, drivers younger than 21 killed in crashes are about half as likely as fatally injured drivers ages 21-30 to have a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher.

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 U.S. 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: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Posted March 2021.

Who is killed

In 2019, the individuals most often killed in crashes involving at least one alcohol-impaired driver (BAC ≥ 0.08 percent) were alcohol-impaired drivers (6,370 deaths), followed by occupants of other vehicles (1,455 deaths), passengers riding with an alcohol-impaired driver (1,346 deaths), and nonoccupants (970 deaths).

Fatalities in crashes involving at least one driver with a BAC ≥ 0.08 percent, 2019
Age Alcohol-Impaired Drivers Passengers Riding With Alcohol-Impaired Drivers Occupants of Other Vehicles Nonoccupants Total*
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
0-15 6 0 128 9 71 5 38 4 242 2
16-20 316 5 187 14 119 8 41 4 663 7
21-30 1,928 30 427 32 285 20 158 16 2,797 28
31-40 1,409 22 222 16 221 15 172 18 2,024 20
41-50 1,038 16 159 12 202 14 148 15 1,547 15
51-60 965 15 111 8 202 14 203 21 1,482 15
61-70 477 7 54 4 167 11 126 13 824 8
>70 225 4 54 4 188 13 79 8 547 5
Total* 6,370 100 1,346 100 1,455 100 970 100 10,142 100

Age and sex

Among fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2019, a higher proportion of males than females had BACs at or above 0.08 percent at every age. Overall, 32 percent of males and 21 percent of females had BACs at or above 0.08 percent. The percentage was highest among males ages 21-30. The lowest percentage was observed among females older than 70. Drivers younger than age 21 who were killed in crashes had far lower percentages of BACs of 0.08 percent or greater than drivers ages 21-30 who died: 21 percent versus 42 percent in 2019.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by driver age and sex, 2019
Age Male Female Total*
Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08 Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08 Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
Number Number % Number Number % Number Number %
16-20 911 210 23 410 72 18 1,323 284 21
21-30 2,568 1,172 46 1,038 355 34 3,613 1,530 42
31-40 1,988 851 43 732 208 28 2,723 1,061 39
41-50 1,544 564 37 597 135 23 2,144 701 33
51-60 1,659 519 31 622 128 21 2,281 647 28
61-70 1,408 280 20 610 68 11 2,018 348 17
>70 1,794 149 8 849 43 5 2,645 192 7
Total* 11,896 3,750 32 4,868 1,010 21 16,783 4,768 28

Among fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2019, 23 percent of males and 15 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 sex, 2019
Age Male Female Total*
Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.15 Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.15 Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.15
Number Number % Number Number % Number Number %
16-20 911 137 15 410 48 12 1,323 187 14
21-30 2,568 847 33 1,038 267 26 3,613 1,116 31
31-40 1,988 646 32 732 160 22 2,723 807 30
41-50 1,544 446 29 597 108 18 2,144 556 26
51-60 1,659 406 25 622 96 15 2,281 503 22
61-70 1,408 203 14 610 46 8 2,018 248 12
>70 1,794 98 5 849 28 3 2,645 126 5
Total* 11,896 2,788 23 4,868 753 15 16,783 3,547 21

Since the 1980s the percentage of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent has declined more among 16-20 year-olds than among older drivers. The percentage of fatally injured 16-20 year-old passenger vehicle drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent now is substantially lower than drivers ages 21-50.

Percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by driver age, 1982-2019

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by driver age, 1982-2019
Year 16-20 years 21-30 years 31-40 years 41-50 years >50 years
Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08 Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08 Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08 Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08 Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
Number Number % Number Number % Number Number % Number Number % Number Number %
1982 3,456 1,826 53 6,244 3,948 63 3,352 1,980 59 1,935 1,023 53 4,574 1,206 26
1983 3,326 1,681 51 6,053 3,859 64 3,383 1,982 59 1,847 853 46 4,615 1,108 24
1984 3,441 1,595 46 6,413 3,885 61 3,549 1,892 53 1,949 890 46 4,839 1,077 22
1985 3,227 1,260 39 6,263 3,659 58 3,430 1,842 54 2,071 914 44 4,940 957 19
1986 3,636 1,495 41 6,695 3,974 59 3,801 1,997 53 2,007 896 45 5,234 994 19
1987 3,630 1,315 36 6,802 3,975 58 4,049 2,151 53 2,128 896 42 5,402 968 18
1988 3,788 1,358 36 6,819 3,991 59 4,130 2,200 53 2,400 1,011 42 5,615 992 18
1989 3,536 1,225 35 6,475 3,675 57 4,130 2,168 52 2,558 1,100 43 5,713 1,004 18
1990 3,397 1,198 35 6,152 3,510 57 4,135 2,263 55 2,519 1,045 41 5,620 930 17
1991 3,021 1,044 35 5,623 3,183 57 3,831 2,111 55 2,479 1,049 42 5,491 833 15
1992 2,697 829 31 5,122 2,759 54 3,734 1,993 53 2,416 970 40 5,489 860 16
1993 2,805 795 28 5,065 2,658 52 3,826 2,003 52 2,475 975 39 5,737 873 15
1994 2,990 800 27 4,975 2,484 50 3,858 1,923 50 2,631 1,024 39 6,036 824 14
1995 2,983 725 24 5,081 2,585 51 4,118 2,090 51 2,854 1,147 40 6,275 918 15
1996 3,026 769 25 4,989 2,475 50 4,061 1,984 49 2,937 1,137 39 6,480 949 15
1997 3,036 774 25 4,775 2,275 48 3,913 1,947 50 2,994 1,124 38 6,870 934 14
1998 3,094 767 25 4,577 2,222 49 3,912 1,831 47 3,140 1,184 38 6,787 915 13
1999 3,261 849 26 4,653 2,260 49 3,821 1,799 47 3,131 1,176 38 6,918 891 13
2000 3,250 844 26 4,706 2,268 48 3,724 1,767 47 3,255 1,268 39 6,764 963 14
2001 3,247 823 25 4,735 2,358 50 3,643 1,700 47 3,300 1,334 40 6,847 972 14
2002 3,452 873 25 4,938 2,462 50 3,678 1,696 46 3,449 1,360 39 6,879 964 14
2003 3,260 858 26 4,852 2,308 48 3,453 1,534 44 3,420 1,352 40 7,084 1,044 15
2004 3,175 815 26 4,970 2,372 48 3,333 1,414 42 3,438 1,276 37 6,918 1,053 15
2005 2,985 734 25 5,067 2,492 49 3,372 1,526 45 3,358 1,290 38 7,079 1,036 15
2006 3,020 831 28 5,159 2,535 49 3,288 1,511 46 3,263 1,216 37 6,770 1,052 16
2007 2,728 766 28 5,028 2,592 52 2,992 1,408 47 3,060 1,211 40 6,645 1,056 16
2008 2,292 626 27 4,388 2,327 53 2,656 1,300 49 2,718 1,068 39 6,154 940 15
2009 2,049 609 30 3,870 2,020 52 2,399 1,127 47 2,623 1,107 42 5,847 923 16
2010 1,675 438 26 3,697 1,816 49 2,414 1,086 45 2,312 914 40 5,887 914 16
2011 1,722 488 28 3,612 1,747 48 2,230 987 44 2,218 871 39 5,745 962 17
2012 1,624 436 27 3,748 1,803 48 2,391 1,099 46 2,188 872 40 5,926 988 17
2013 1,381 360 26 3,671 1,788 49 2,336 1,058 45 2,138 850 40 6,018 1,049 17
2014 1,434 344 24 3,636 1,707 47 2,317 987 43 2,042 752 37 6,025 1,110 18
2015 1,591 348 22 3,860 1,658 43 2,522 1,067 42 2,121 744 35 6,491 1,090 17
2016 1,591 330 21 4,205 1,812 43 2,726 1,114 41 2,218 781 35 6,857 1,102 16
2017 1,483 322 22 4,057 1,721 42 2,830 1,125 40 2,282 767 34 7,056 1,174 17
2018 1,439 289 20 3,962 1,674 42 2,712 1,062 39 2,158 736 34 6,959 1,191 17
2019 1,323 284 21 3,613 1,530 42 2,723 1,061 39 2,144 701 33 6,944 1,187 17

When alcohol-impaired crashes occur

Alcohol involvement in fatal crashes peaks at night. Between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., 49 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2019 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 18 percent during other hours.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with high BACs by nighttime vs. other times, 2019
Time of day Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08 Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.15
Number Number % Number %
9 p.m. - 6 a.m. 5,491 2,717 49 2,037 37
Other hours 11,292 2,051 18 1,509 13
Total 16,783 4,768 28 3,547 21

The three-hour period with the highest percentage of driver fatalities with BACs of 0.08 percent or higher is midnight to 3 a.m.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with high BACs by time of day, 2019
Time of day Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08 Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.15
Number Number % Number %
Midnight - 3 a.m. 1,862 1,100 59 842 45
3 a.m. - 6 a.m. 1,520 616 41 438 29
6 a.m. - 9 a.m. 2,031 287 14 195 10
9 a.m. - noon 1,852 164 9 121 7
Noon - 3 p.m. 2,380 288 12 207 9
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. 2,713 493 18 371 14
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 2,162 746 35 560 26
9 p.m. - midnight 2,109 1,001 47 757 36
Total* 16,783 4,768 28 3,547 21

Forty percent of passenger vehicle drivers fatally injured on weekends (6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday) in 2019 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 22 percent at other times.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with high BACs by weekend vs. other times, 2019
Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08 Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.15
Number Number % Number %
Weekend (6 p.m. Friday - 6 a.m. Monday) 6,244 2,474 40 1,852 30
Other times 10,539 2,295 22 1,694 16
Total 16,783 4,768 28 3,547 21

Alcohol involvement is very high in fatal nighttime (9 p.m. to 6 a.m.) single-vehicle crashes. In 2019, 61 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in these crashes had BACs at or above 0.08 percent, and 46 percent had BACs at or above 0.15 percent. Six percent had BACs of 0.01 to 0.07 percent.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers by BAC, time, and crash type, 2019
Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs = 0 Estimated drivers killed with 0.01 ≤ BACs ≤ 0.07 Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08 Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.15
Number Number % Number % Number % Number %
Single vehicle Night 3,178 1,057 33 179 6 1,942 61 1,466 46
Day 4,387 2,934 67 181 4 1,271 29 964 22
Multiple vehicle Night 2,313 1,402 61 136 6 775 34 572 25
Day 6,751 5,856 87 187 3 707 10 489 7