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Impaired Driving Prevalence/Overview

Alcohol-impaired drivers make up about one-third of all motor vehicle deaths. An average of one alcohol-impaired-driving death occurs every 45 minutes. Each year, impaired- driving crashes cost the U.S. more than $50 billion.

More than 2 out of every 3 people who die in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes are drivers with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. The remaining alcohol-related deaths are primarily passengers and non-occupants [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 2009].

Most alcohol-impaired driving crashes occur during the evening hours and on weekends. In fact, the rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes is four times higher at night than during the day. The rate is twice as high for drivers involved in crashes on the weekends as compared to during the week (NHTSA 2009).

Drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or higher involved in fatal crashes are eight times more likely to have a prior conviction for driving drunk than were drivers with no alcohol.

Percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by driver age, 1982-2008

Source: (IIHS, 2009)

Below is the distribution of drivers with a BAC level of 0.08 or higher in fatal crashes. About 90% are between the ages of 21 and 44.

  • Just over one-third are between ages 21 and 24
  • Nearly one-third are between ages 25 and 34
  • About 1 out of every 4 are between ages 35 and 44

All 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have per se laws which make it illegal to drive with a BAC at or above 0.08 percent. However, you can still be arrested and convicted of DUI with a BAC at or below 0.08 percent. Click here to see the Drunk Driving laws in your state.

Percent of fatally injured people with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by type, 1982-2008

Source: (IIHS, 2009)