Approximately one in three people killed in a car crash are drunk drivers. Fortunately, the number of drivers convicted of DUI in the United States has been declining since the 1980s. However, there are still thousands of innocent lives that are lost each year due to impaired driving.
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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than 10,500 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in the United States in 2018. These deaths equate to over 28% of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the country. The human cost of a drunk driver is unmeasurable.
In addition to the death toll, there are thousands of injuries caused by drunk driving each year. The CDC estimates that more than 20,000 people are treated in emergency rooms each year for alcohol-related injuries.
Drivers aged 18 to 20 account for about one-fifth of all drivers involved in drunk driving fatal crashes. Teenagers who drive under the influence of alcohol are particularly likely to have a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which means that their blood alcohol content is higher than the legal limit. Males and females are equally susceptible to BAC levels that impair their ability to operate a motor vehicle. Teenage drivers with a BAC of 0.08% or higher have a seven-times higher chance of dying in a fatal crash than sober drivers.
According to the NHTSA, about half of all fatal drunk driving crashes take place at night. The most common time for drunk driving accidents is the summer months. In 2018, there were more than twice as many alcohol-impaired crashes on the weekend as on the weekdays. The risk of a drunk driving accident increases by more than 3.5 times on a Saturday compared to a Sunday.
More than two-thirds of all fatal drunk driving crashes happen on non-interstate roads. Many drunk driving crashes occur on rural roads. Pedestrians represent ten percent of those involved in an alcohol-related vehicle crash.
In addition to alcohol, other factors also contribute to the number of drunk driving crashes. Pedestrians and motorcycle riders are among the most vulnerable to impaired driving. Pedestrians and motorcycle riders account for about eight percent of all alcohol-related fatal crashes that involve a motor vehicle. In 2018, eight percent of alcohol-related fatal crashes took place in rainy or clear/cloudy conditions.
The highest rate of drunk driving fatalities is in Texas. In 2019, the state had 949 alcohol-involved crash fatalities. In terms of alcohol-impaired crash fatality rates, Florida and California were right behind Texas.
The District of Columbia has the lowest rate of alcohol-involved fatal crashes in the nation. Its average annual rate is 0.77. The District of Columbia has six alcohol-related fatalities each year.
The CDC estimates that about 30 alcohol-related deaths occur each day in the U.S., which is more than the number of deaths each year from heart disease and diabetes combined. This is a frightening statistic, but it must be addressed. Despite the rising numbers of alcohol-related deaths, there are several things you can do to reduce your chances of being in a drunk driving accident. For example, you can use ridesharing services or call a friend.