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Alcohol and Driving: Drunk Driving Facts and Statistics

Alcohol and DrivingUsing alcohol and driving, or drunk driving, is a serious problem in the United States. It is a threat to everyone, regardless of age, gender, or class. As its name implies, drunk driving is the act of driving a vehicle after consuming enough alcohol to impair one’s motor skills and mental capacity. In nearly all states, people who drink enough alcohol to have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher are considered impaired and cannot legally drive a car. In some instances, the legal blood alcohol content, which is often referred to as BAC, may be lower than 0.08 percent. In terms of drivers who are under the age of 21, no amount of alcohol in the system is acceptable, as it is illegal to drink alcohol at that age.

The impairment to one’s motor skills and mental capacity are just two of the reasons why drinking alcohol and driving is such a great offense. In addition, it also affects a driver’s perception, reaction time, coordination, judgment, and general ability to pay attention to what is happening on the road. Failure to have command of any of these skills can result in a crash and/or the injury of others on the road, including other drivers and their passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Not only are drunk drivers a threat to others on the road, but they are also a threat to themselves and to any passengers who may be in the vehicle with them. While driving drunk is an obvious danger to human life, it is also very costly in other ways. When an intoxicated individual gets behind the wheel of a car, they are potentially destructive to the environment and structures within a community as well.

Scope of the Problem

  • The CDC states in the Motor Vehicle Safety section of its website that there is a drunk-driving-related death every 51 minutes in the United States.
  • Before their initial arrest, drunk drivers often drive as many as 80 times on average.
  • Thirty-five percent of people killed in auto accidents are alcohol-impaired, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
  • The estimated annual cost of crashes involving alcohol impairment is $37 billion.
  • Of the alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities in 2012, 65 percent involved drivers who had a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, greater than .08 percent, as noted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • On average, eight teenagers a day die as a result of crashes that involve DUIs.
  • The North Dakota Department of Transportation states that in one’s lifetime, as many as one out of every five people living in the United States will be involved in a crash that is alcohol-related.

People Who Are at the Highest Risk

  • According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, when it comes to fatal motorcycle crashes involving alcohol, nearly 50 percent of fatalities involve riders who are 40 years old or older.
  • The Foundation for a Drug-Free World notes that the risk of death due to a vehicle accident is 11 times higher when a driver is under the influence of alcohol.
  • Male drivers, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, are twice as likely to drive while intoxicated than female drivers.
  • DUIs involving female drivers have been increasing. According to the NHTSA, the number of fatal crashes involving female drivers rose from 12 percent in 2003 to 14 percent in 2012.
  • According to MADD, roughly one-third of drivers who are arrested or convicted of driving while drunk are previous offenders.
  • In 2012, there were 239 drunk-driving-related deaths involving children who were 14 years olf or younger, according to the CDC. More than half of these victims were in the vehicle with the actual drunk driver.
  • The age group with the greatest percentage of fatal drunk driving is the 21-to-24 age group, at 32 percent. The CDC also notes that people 25 to 34 had the second-highest percentage of fatal drunk-driving accidents at 27 percent, followed by people ages 35 to 44 at 24 percent.
  • The effects of alcohol are greater for teens than adults. As a result, the risk of an alcohol-related accident is higher for teens regardless of what their BAC is, according to California’s Administrative Office of the Courts.

Other Alcohol and Driving Risk Factors

  • Approximately 18 percent of auto deaths involve the use of drugs such as marijuana or cocaine; however, the CDC notes that many of these cases also involve the use of alcohol in addition to the other drugs.
  • Accidents from drinking alcohol and driving are more likely to occur at night than during the day.
  • There are more alcohol-related crashes on weekends versus weekdays.

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