Across the US, drunk drivers are responsible for thousands of deaths and injuries each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that there are over 10 million alcohol-related vehicle crashes each year. Among those crashes, almost a third of the fatalities involve an alcohol-impaired driver.
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In 2019, the total number of drunk driving fatalities was 11,654, an increase of 14.3 percent from the previous year. The NHTSA found that one person died every 45 minutes from an alcohol-related crash in the US.
Among drivers under the age of 21, there was the highest percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes. In California, there were 113 alcohol-related deaths among drivers under the age of 21 in the past year. There was also more alcohol-related traffic crashes in May and July, as compared to the preceding months. These are the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer”.
In addition to the younger drivers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the average BAC of drivers involved in fatal car crashes was 0.08 g/dL. This means that people with this level of BAC experience impaired information processing and a lack of concentration. These BAC levels are not legal to drive at. The BAC can be measured by urine tests, blood tests, and breath tests. Several states had higher BAC levels than the national average. The rate of alcohol-impaired fatalities in these states ranged from 12 to 20 percent. The District of Columbia had the lowest drunk driving fatality rate in the country.
While the national average is relatively low, the amount of drivers who are arrested for DUI is still high. Approximately one in three convicted DUI/DWI drivers are repeat offenders. A driver with a BAC above 0.10 is seven times more likely to be in a fatal crash than a sober driver.
The NHTSA reported that the average number of drunk driving fatalities decreased by 18 percent from 2004 to 2011. The number of drunk driving fatalities has declined since the peak in the 1980s. In 2010, the total number of alcohol-related fatalities was 10,288. This decrease was primarily due to a decrease in the number of adults under the age of 24 who were involved in fatal crashes. A decrease in the age group of drivers over 55 was also observed.
Among fatal crashes, women were less likely to be involved than men. In addition, female drivers were more likely to be injured or killed in crashes than male drivers. The age distribution for drivers involved in fatal crashes was similar to the previous year’s report.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that more than 1,200 children were killed in alcohol-related car crashes in 2010. This is an alarming number of children killed by alcohol-impaired drivers. 214 children aged 14 and under were occupants of vehicles with drunk drivers.
The CDC found that the number of children who were killed in crashes that were caused by an alcohol-impaired driver increased from 2.344% to 2.3444% in the years 2001 to 2010. The overall rate of fatalities among drivers under the age of 15 was slightly lower than that of older drivers.
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