Drunk driving statistics
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Alcohol is the biggest cause of traffic fatalities. Drunk driving kills an average of 28 people every day across the United States amounting to over 10,000 deaths every year.
Drunk driving charges happen when individuals are legally impaired above a BAC of 0.08 which amounts to a wide variety of drink quantities and qualities depending on weight and gender. any amount of alcohol can severely impact a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle and yet statistics indicate that it continues to happen.
Drunk driving has remained a serious issue for several decades. While the number of accidents may have decreased over the last 20 years, the severity of those accidents and the rate of fatalities has increased. Drunk driving accidents and injuries don’t just occur when individuals are in excess of the legal limit but when individuals have even the minimum level of BAC.
In 2021, 2,266 people were killed in car accidents where the driver only had a BAC of .01
In the 10 years from 2012 until 2021, roughly 10,850 people died every year because of drunk driving car accidents.
In 2021 men were 143% more likely to drive while intoxicated compared to women.
Young drivers between 21 and 34 account for over half of all fatal drunk driving accidents.
The number of drivers who knowingly drive while intoxicated reached the highest level since 2015.
What is Drunk Driving?
Drunk driving is any form of driving where an individual has any form of intoxication or inebriation which means BAC levels of at least .01% a but from a legal standpoint, charges of drunk driving happen when individuals are above the state limits which are .05 or .08 depending on the state.
According to the NHTSA, alcohol impacts brain function, thinking, reasoning, and coordination. These are major behaviors that control driving too. As individuals consume higher levels of alcohol, it increases their blood alcohol concentration which increases the risk of accidents and injuries.
Across the United States a BAC of .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter (g/dL) of blood is the limit because at this level, the risk of car accidents increases exponentially. Utah is the only state with a lower BAC of .05.
Still, a driver does not need to be in excess of .08 to be inhibited or get involved in accidents.
- 2,266: In 2021, 2,266 people were killed in car accidents where the driver only had a BAC of .01.
- 13,384: 13,384 deaths occurred in 2021 because of drunk driving accidents.
Blood alcohol concentration represents the percentage of alcohol in the blood. At different levels of intoxication, driving behaviors become more challenging, and the risk of accidents increases. Below is a table that indicates different BACs, the effects it has, and the impact on driving:
|BAC||Normal Effects||Driving Effects|
|.02||Relaxation; decreased judgment; altered mood||Decline in ability to track moving targets; decline in ability to divide attention|
|.05||Loss of small muscle control; decreased alertness; reduced inhibition; impaired judgment||Reduced coordination; problems steering; decreased response time to emergencies|
|.08||Poor balance and speech; reduced reaction time; decreased vision and hearing; decreased self-control; problems with reasoning and memory||Problems processing information like signals or things out the windows; issues with speed control; short term memory loss; problems with concentration|
|.10||Deteriorated control and reactions; slowed thinking; slurred speech; poor coordination||Inability to stay in the correct lane; problems braking; problems processing information around you; issues with speed and concentration|
Drunk driving is incredibly unsafe. Despite the risks it continues to happen across the United states. Drunk driving can cause impairment, arrests, accidents, and even fatalities.
- 31%: Nearly 31% of all traffic crash fatalities have drivers with BACs above the legal limit of 08.
- 13,384: In 2021,13,384 people were killed in drunk driving car accidents.
- 10,850: In the 10 years from 2012 until 2021, roughly 10,850 people died every year because of drunk driving car accidents.
- 39 Minutes: One person was killed in a drunk driving car accident in 2021 every 39 minutes.
- June, July, August: June, July, and August have the highest number of drunk driving accidents.
- 68%: 68% of all alcohol related fatalities take place at night.
- 28%: 28% of all alcohol related fatalities take place during the day.
- 2x: Drunk driving accidents take place at a rate of 2x on weekends compared to weekdays.
- 13%: Between 2020 and 2019 drivers traveled 13 miles less.
- 9%: Despite traveling Less in 2020, the number of fatal car accidents involving drunk driving increased 9%.
History of Drunk Driving Statistics
Thanks in large part to changes enforced by many advocacy groups, laws have been altered to try and reduce the number of alcohol related fatalities. The table below shows how the total number of alcohol related traffic rates have changed over the last few years:
|Year||Total traffic fatalities||Alcohol-related traffic fatalities|
Drunk Driving by State
Drunk driving is a nation-wide issue but traffic accidents and fatalities related to alcohol are higher in some states.
According to 2018 data, Texas, California, and Florida had the highest rates of annual alcohol-related fatalities. North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Vermont had the lowest.
However, these figures may not account for the full picture. State data reveals that more populous states have higher rates of drunk driving fatalities. If you adjust for population, drunk driving accidents are more common in Montana, Texas, Alaska, and Connecticut, and less common in Kansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
- 1,677: Texas has 1,677 alcohol-related fatalities in 2018.
- 1,241: California had 1,241 alcohol-related fatalities in 2018.
- 33: North Dakota had 33 alcohol-related fatalities in 2018.
- 25: Rhode Island had 25 alcohol-related fatalities in 2018.
- 23: Vermont had 23 alcohol-related fatalities in 2018.
- 48%: 48% of fatal accidents in Montana were caused by drunk driving.
- 46%: 46% of fatal accidents in Texas were caused by drunk driving.
- 45%: 45% of fatal accidents in Alaska and Connecticut were caused by drunk driving.
- 24%: Only 24% of fatal accidents in Kansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia were caused by drunk driving, the lowest across the US.
The table below provides a breakdown of alcohol-related fatalities in 2018 in each state:
|State||Number of alcohol-related fatalities||Percentage of all fatalities involving alcohol|
|District of Columbia||10||32%|
Drunk Driving by Gender
Drunk driving affects all genders, but statistics indicate that men are more likely to drive drunk and get into accidents while intoxicated.
- 143%: In 2021 men were 143% more likely to drive while intoxicated compared to women.
- 68.4%: 68.4% of men were more likely than women in 2021 to drive often while intoxicated.
- 81%: Men accounted for 81% of drunk driving arrests in 2019.
- 19%: 19% of drunk driving arrests in 2019 were women.
- 4x: Men are 4x more likely to get into a drunk driving accident compared to women.
Source: TIRF; FBI
Drunk Driving by Age
Crash statistics indicate that young drivers are the most likely to be involved in drunk driving and drunk driving accidents. Young drivers between 21 and 34 account for over half of all fatal drunk driving accidents.
- 8%: 8% of drivers between the ages of 21 and 29 reported that they very often drive under the influence.
- 5.6%: 5.6% of drivers between 50 and 59 reported in 2021 that they very often drive under the influence
- 27%: Drivers between 21 and 24 accounted for 27% of all fatal car accidents involving alcohol in 2022.
- 25%: Drivers between 25 and 34 accounted for 25% of fatal car accidents involving alcohol in 2022.
Source: TIRF; NFTSA-DOT
The table below provides percentages of which age groups have the highest rates of drunk driving related car accidents:
|Age Group||Percentage of fatal drunk driving accidents|
|16 – 20||15%|
|21 – 24||27%|
|25 – 34||25%|
|35 – 44||21%|
|45 – 54||19%|
|55 – 64||15%|
|65 – 74||10%|
Drunk Driving Prevention
Drunk driving prevention can be done with several measures:
- First, individuals can use public transport, taxis, or other rideshare services instead of driving themselves, especially on holidays or weekends where the risk of DUI accidents and fatalities are higher.
- Second, if not using taxis or car sharing services, there should always be a non-drinking individual as the designated driver each time you go out.
- When you go out alone, do not drink alcohol then instead order soft drinks or water.
- If you plan on drinking and driving, always eat plenty of food and drink water, and wait at least one hour for every drink you have.
- Never get into a car if you know the driver has been drinking.
Holidays and Drunk Driving Accidents
DUI fatalities and drunk driving accidents are more likely to take place on holidays.
- 117%: There is a 117% higher than average risk of a DUI fatality or drunk driving accident on New Year’s Day.
- 77%: Independence Day is the deadliest weekend for drunk driving accidents and fatalities. there is a 77% higher than average risk.
- 55%: Thanksgiving has a 55% higher than average risk of getting involved in a drunk driving accident or a DUI fatality.
- 54%: Labor Day is the second deadliest weekend for drunk driving fatalities. There is a 54% higher than average risk of getting in a DUI fatality or drunk driving accident.
- 51%: Memorial Day has a 51% higher than average risk of drunk driving accidents.
Most Dangerous Roads for Drunk Driving
The most dangerous road for drunk driving is Route 91 in California followed by several interstates where nearly 1/3 of all fatal car accidents involve drunk driving.
- 584: From 2015 through 2019, 584 people were killed in drunk driving accidents on I-5 in California
- Route 91: In California, Route 91 has the highest number of drunk driving related fatal car accidents.
- 42%: 42% of all fatal car accidents on Route 91 in California involved drunk driving.
- I-71: The second most dangerous road for drunk driving is Ohio’s I-71.
- 38%: 38% of all fatal car accidents on I-71 in Ohio involved drunk driving.
- I-55: I-55 in Illinois is the third most dangerous road for drunk driving accidents.
- 33%: 33% of all fatal car accidents onI-55 in Illinois involved drunk driving.
Drunk Driving and Society
Many drivers across the US liken drunk driving as one of the biggest issues related to road safety. NHTSA data indicates that young drivers are the most likely to drive while intoxicated. Moreover, those who have a prior DUI conviction are also more likely to continue driving under the influence.
- $44 billion: Drinking and driving costs over $44 billion in damages and deaths each year.
- 65%: 65% of drivers in 2021 were extremely concerned about drunk driving, more so than those extremely concerned about COVID.
- 5%: 5% of drivers in 2021 reported that they have gotten behind the wheel when they believed they were over the legal limit.
- 35.5%: The number of drivers who admitted they drove when they were likely over the legal limit in 2021 increased 35.5% since 2020.
- 2015: The number of drivers who knowingly drive while intoxicated reached the highest level since 2015.
- 10.4%: 10.4% of people who admitted they drove while intoxicated in 2021 said they did so because they assumed they wouldn’t get caught.
- 40.5%: 40.5% of people who admitted they drove while intoxicated in 2021 said they did so because they thought despite being over the legal limit, they were still “safe” to drive.
Source: TIRF; NFTSA-DOT
Drunk Driving Consequences
There are serious consequences to drunk driving. Increased drunk driving laws have been enforced since the 1980s.
- $10,000: The first DUI can cost over $10,000 in fines and legal fees.
Charges for drunk driving can range from a misdemeanor to a felony and include penalties such as revocation of a driver’s license, jail time, and substantial fines. Many states also require things like ignition interlock devices which need regular breath tests before the vehicle can be operated.
- Suspended license: Most states will automatically suspend your license for anywhere from a few months to a year depending on your drunk driving conviction history. Multiple drunk driving convictions often result in a revocation of your driver’s license.
- Mandatory jail time: Some states will enforce mandatory jail time for first offenses and many will enforce mandatory jail time for second and third offenses.
- Fines and fees: Fines and fees can cost thousands of dollars.
- Ignition interlock device: Some states require an ignition interlock device be installed on your vehicle at your cost and if any alcohol is detected the vehicle will not operate.
- Job loss or restrictions: Even a single drunk driving conviction can result in losing your job or job restrictions especially if your job involves money, children, or vehicles.
- Higher insurance costs: Insurance premiums go up dramatically after a drunk driving conviction.
- Punitive damages: If you were involved in a car accident, you might face punitive damages for which any liability insurance may be prohibited by state law from covering.
The table below lists some of the penalties for each state for drunk driving:
|State||Length of License Suspension||Ignition interlock device|
|Alabama||90 days||Mandatory for BAC above 0.15|
|Alaska||90 days||Mandatory for all convictions|
|Arizona||90 days||Mandatory for all convictions|
|Arkansas||6 months||Mandatory for all convictions|
|California||4 months||Mandatory for convictions in some counties otherwise discretionary|
|Colorado||3 months||Mandatory for BAC above 0.15|
|Connecticut||90 days||Highly incentivized for convictions|
|Delaware||3 months||Highly incentivized for convictions|
|District of Columbia||2-90 days||Mandatory for all convictions|
|Florida||6 months||Not required|
|Georgia||1 year||Mandatory for repeat offenders|
|Hawaii||3 months||mandatory for all convictions|
|Idaho||90 days||mandatory for all convictions|
|Illinois||6 months||mandatory for all convictions and incentivized for first DUI convictions|
|Indiana||180 days||mandatory for repeat offenders|
|Iowa||180 days||highly incentivized for all convictions|
|Kansas||30 days||Mandatory for all convictions|
|Kentucky||30-120 days||Mandatory for all convictions|
|Louisiana||Not required||Mandatory for high BAC convictions|
|Maine||90 days||Highly incentivized for all convictions|
|Maryland||90 days||Mandatory for all convictions|
|Massachusetts||90 days||Mandatory for repeat offenders|
|Michigan||45 days||Mandatory for high BAC|
|Minnesota||15 days||Highly incentivized for high BAC|
|Mississippi||90 days||Mandatory for all convictions|
|Missouri||90 days||Mandatory for repeat offenders|
|Montana||6 months||Mandatory for repeat offenders|
|Nebraska||90 days||Mandatory for all convictions|
|Nevada||90 days||Mandatory for all convictions|
|New Hampshire||6 months||Mandatory for all convictions|
|New Jersey||3 months||Mandatory for all convictions|
|New Mexico||1 year if under 21
6 months if over
|Mandatory for all convictions|
|New York||Based on county||Mandatory for all convictions|
|North Carolina||30 days||Mandatory for high BAC|
|North Dakota||91 days||Up to the discretion of the judge|
|Ohio||90 days||Mandatory for repeat offenders|
|Oklahoma||180 days||Mandatory for high BAC|
|Oregon||90 days||Mandatory for all convictions|
|Pennsylvania||Based on county||Mandatory for high BAC|
|Rhode Island||30-180 days||Mandatory for all convictions|
|South Carolina||1 month||Mandatory for high BAC|
|South Dakota||30 days||Up to the discretion of the judge|
|Tennessee||1 year||Mandatory for repeat offenders|
|Texas||90 days||Mandatory for repeat offenders|
|Utah||120 days||Mandatory for repeat offenders|
|Vermont||90 days||Highly incentivized for all convictions|
|Virginia||7 days||Mandatory for repeat offenders|
|Washington||90 days||Mandatory for all convictions|
|West Virginia||6 months||Mandatory for high BAC|
|Wisconsin||6-9 months||Mandatory for high BAC|
|Wyoming||90 days||Mandatory for high BAC|
DUIs can stay on your record for different lengths of time. For example:
- 10: In California, it stays on your record for ten years, before it “falls off”
- Forever: In Texas, it stays on your record forever, unless you pay to have it expunged
- 15: In New York, a DUI stays on your record for 15 years.
How long does a DUI stay on your record?
This varies by state. For example:
- In California, it stays on your record for ten years, then “falls off”
- In Texas, it stays on your record permanently, unless you get it expunged
- In New York, it stays on your record for 15 years.
DUI Laws: State by State
The table below gives an idea of different state laws for how long a DUI will stay on your record and whether or not you can have a DUI expunged at any point in time.
|State||Length of Time on Driver Record||Expungement|
|Alabama||5 years||Yes for juveniles|
|Arkansas||5 years||Yes, for first time offenders|
|California||10 years||Yes but convictions “fall off” after 10 years|
|Colorado||10 years||Yes for juveniles|
|Connecticut||10 years||Yes 3 years after the original conviction|
|Indiana||Permanently||Yes, 5 years after a misdemeanor conviction or 8 years after a felony conviction|
|Kansas||Permanently||Yes after 5 years for a first offense or after 10 years for a second offense|
|Kentucky||Permanently||Yes after 5 years for a misdemeanor offense but not a felony offense|
|Massachusetts||10 years||No but you can seal your record after 5 years for a misdemeanor or 10 years for a felony|
|Missouri||10 years||Yes ten years after your original conviction|
|Montana||5 years||Yes after 5 years|
|Nevada||7 years||No but you can have the DUI sealed after 7 years|
|New Hampshire||10 years||Yes after 10 years|
|New Jersey||10 years||No|
|New Mexico||5 years||No|
|New York||15 years||No|
|North Dakota||7 years||No|
|Rhode Island||5 years||Yes 5 years later|
|South Carolina||10 years||No|
|South Dakota||10 years||Yes after 10 years|
|Utah||10 years||Yes after 10 years|
|Washington DC||10 years||No|
|West Virginia||10 years||No|
|Wyoming||10 years||Yes after 5 years|
Drunk Driving and Insurance
According to Forbes, car insurance rates increase an average of 67% after your first DUI conviction. In fact, a DUI is the most expensive conviction in terms of annual insurance rates.
State Farm, for example, charges an average of $1,420 per year for drivers with a clean record. After a single conviction for DUI, that increases to an average of 2,175.
If you take out a new policy or your current policy renews, you can expect changes based on your driving history. The table below provides the average annual rates for different driving histories:
|Driving History||Average Annual Insurance Premium|
|Good driving history||$1,996|
|One speeding ticket within 15 mph of speed limit||$2,121|
|One accident with minor property damage||$2,141|
|Driving without insurance||$2,243|
|Poor credit score||$2,923|
|One accident with injuries||$2,999|