Drunk driving is a major cause of death in the United States. It is estimated that more than one-third of all traffic accidents involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This translates into an average of over 10,000 people being killed each year. Alcohol impairs judgment, makes it more difficult to operate a motor vehicle safely, and increases the risk of injury in a traffic crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tracks alcohol-related crashes in the United States, examining the number of deaths, injuries, and other factors.
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Although drunk driving fatalities are steadily decreasing, the amount of alcohol-related deaths remains higher than they were in recent years. More than 2,500 people were killed in alcohol-related collisions in 2017, while more than 2,000 died in crashes involving drivers who were under the influence of alcohol in 2018.
Drunk driving statistics vary by age, gender, and location, and they often vary by time of day. Most crashes occur during the evening or on weekends. Younger people are more likely to drive under the influence, while older adults are less likely. The rate of intoxicated driving crashes is particularly high on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Day. However, drunk driving is an epidemic that must be treated as a serious public health issue.
In the United States, the number of people killed by drunk driving has decreased by about 18% over the past decade. During the same period, the rate of people under 21 years old who were killed in a traffic accident dropped by 70 percent. A significant reason for this reduction is the implementation of minimum drinking age laws, along with increased enforcement and other programs. These measures are expected to save over 31,000 lives in the U.S. in the coming years.
Alcohol-related fatalities also occurred at a higher rate on the weekends and during the summer months. This is due in part to the fact that most drunk driving crashes do not occur in bad weather conditions. Some fatal crashes did occur on a Saturday or Sunday, but most were on clear or cloudy days.
When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration evaluated over 34,000 fatal crashes, it found that alcohol-impaired drivers were responsible for a high percentage of roadway fatalities. Of the nearly 40,000 total deaths, 37 percent were alcohol-related. Among those who were involved in an alcohol-related crash, 13 percent were pedestrians, 22 percent were passengers in a vehicle struck by a drunk driver, and seven percent were other drivers in vehicles struck by a drunk driver.
Drivers aged 25 to 34 made up 26 percent of all drunk drivers who were involved in a fatal crash, while men of mixed races were the most likely to be involved in a crash. Teenagers under 16 years of age made up the smallest group, with five percent of all drunk driving fatalities occurring to them.
Regardless of where you live, you are likely to encounter a drunk driving driver at some point in your lifetime. While the rate of fatalities varies by state, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drunk driving is a major cause of death in all 50 states.