Drunk Driving Statistics 2023 

Each year, one million individuals are arrested in the United States under charges of drunk driving. Results from surveys show that this number represents only a small portion of the actual number of alcohol-impaired drivers behind the wheel each year. 

This post compiles data from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the 2023 Drunk Driving Report by The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) to give you an understanding of the latest drunk driving scene in the U.S.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Throughout 2021, motor vehicle accidents claimed 13,384 lives, with at least one driver found to be alcohol-impaired in each instance. Alcohol-impaired fatalities accounted for 31% of all traffic fatalities nationwide. 
  • From 2020 to 2021, fatalities resulting from alcohol-impaired-driving crashes rose from 11,718 to 13,384, marking a 14.2% increase.
  • In 2021, a fatality linked to alcohol-impaired driving occurred every 39 minutes. 
  • Individuals between the ages of 21-24 and 25-34 had the highest rate (27%) of alcohol-impaired drivers being involved in fatal crashes, surpassing all other age groups in 2021.
  • There is a notable gender disparity, with approximately four male alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes for every female driver. 
  • Of all alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2021, motorcycle drivers accounted for the highest percentage of crashes (28%). Passenger car drivers, light truck drivers, and large truck drivers made up 24%, 20%, and 3% respectively.
  • Children aged 14 and below were involved in a total of 1,184 traffic fatalities, with around 25% or 294 deaths attributed to accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers. 
  • Out of the total 13,384 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities that occurred in 2021, 67% (or 9027) deaths occurred in crashes where at least one driver exhibited a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.15 g/dL or higher. 
  • Alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal accidents was 2.8 times more prevalent at night compared to daytime incidents.

Fatality Rate in Alcohol-Impaired Driving Crashes by Role

Here are some numbers on fatality in drunk driving accidents by role:

  • Drivers are the most susceptible to losing their lives in crashes involving alcohol impairment. In 2021, out of the total 12,384 fatalities in alcohol-impaired crashes, drivers made up 60% (8,089).
  • Out of the remaining fatalities, passengers accompanying alcohol-impaired drivers comprised 12% (or 1,603 fatalities), occupants of other vehicles comprised 16% (or 2,085 fatalities), and nonoccupants were 12% (or 1,607 fatalities).

Economic Cost of Alcohol-Impaired Traffic Crashes

Alcohol-impaired traffic crashes come with an economic cost. Here are some numbers:

  • In 2021, the United States estimated an economic toll of $340 billion from all traffic accidents, with crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers accounting for $58 billion of that total.
  • When the cost of lost quality of life is considered, the total value of harm from all traffic crashes in the United States in 2019 was $1.37 trillion, of which $296 billion was attributed to crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers.

Alcohol-Impaired Driver Statistics

Here are important statistics related to alcohol-impaired drivers:

  • According to the 2020 NSDUH, approximately 18.5 million people drove while under the influence of alcohol within the previous year.
  • The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System revealed that 1.2% of adults admitted to driving after consuming excessive alcohol within the last 30 days in a 2020 survey. This suggests an estimated 127 million instances of alcohol-impaired driving among adults in the United States.
  • In 2021, the percentages of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes varied by vehicle type. Here’s what the data shows:
  • Drivers in fatal crashes who were alcohol-impaired had four times the likelihood of prior Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) convictions than drivers who did not consume alcohol.
  • A majority of drivers in fatal crashes had far higher blood alcohol content than the legal limit of 0.08 g/dL. 
  • Of the 15,135 drivers in fatal crashes who were alcohol-impaired, 84% (or 12,762) had BAC at or above 0.08 g/dL. 55% (or 8,385) had BAC levels at or above 0.15 g/dL.
  • Of the 13,384 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in 2021, 67% of drivers (9027) were involved in crashes where at least one driver had a blood alcohol level of 0.15 g/dL or higher.
  • Among alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal crashes, the most frequently recorded blood alcohol level was 0.16g/dL. The median blood alcohol level among drinking drivers was 0.15 g/dL.

Drunk Driving by Population Demographic

Data from the CDC shows that certain demographics are at a higher risk for driving under the influence and alcohol-impaired accidents and fatalities. Here are some numbers: 

Men 

  • Men are more likely to self-report driving after consuming alcohol, marijuana, or illicit drugs as compared to female drivers. 
  • In 2020, 22% of male drivers involved in fatal crashes were alcohol-impaired, compared with 16% of female drivers. 

Teenagers 

  • Teenage drivers face a greater risk of getting involved in a motor vehicle accident compared to adult drivers with the same level of alcohol impairment—even at BAC levels below the legal limit for adults. 
  • 5.4% of U.S. high school students who are drivers engaged in alcohol-impaired driving at least once during the last 30 days. 
  • Among all high school students, 16.7% traveled with a driver who had consumed alcohol at least once during the last 30 days. 

In addition, findings from the 2019 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed:

  • Among drivers aged 15 to 20 years, 24% of male drivers and 17% of female drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents had consumed alcohol before the crash.
  • 29% of drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 who lost their lives in fatal car crashes had consumed alcohol prior to the crash. 
  • 17% of drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 who were involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher.
  • Certain students exhibited a higher likelihood of drunk driving. These included older students, male students, and those who scored less than their higher-scoring counterparts.
  • Students who participated in other risky driving behaviors were 13 times more likely to also have engaged in alcohol-impaired driving at least one time in the 30 days before the survey. 

Young Adult Drivers

  • Young adults aged between 21 and 24 years and 25 and 34 years are significantly more likely to drive while impaired compared to other age groups. In 2020, this age group represented 26% of drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes, the highest among all drivers. 
  • In 2018, young adults aged 21 to 24 exhibited the highest rate of driving after consuming excessive alcohol in the past 30 days.

Motorcycle Drivers 

  • In 2020, there were higher reports of impaired driving among motorcyclists compared to drivers of other vehicle types. 27% of motorcycle drivers who were involved in fatal accidents were under the influence of alcohol, as opposed to 23% of passenger car drivers.

Drivers With Previous DWI Convictions

  • In 2020, the likelihood of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes having prior DWI convictions was four times greater compared to drivers without alcohol in their system.

Drivers Who Do Not Wear Seatbelts

  • In crashes in 2020, a higher percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers (66%) did not wear seatbelts compared to drivers who did not drink alcohol (44%). 

Fatalities Involving Children

  • In 2021, a total of 1,184 children (aged 14 years or younger) were killed in car crashes. Of these fatalities, 25% of children (or 294 children) were killed in alcohol-impaired driving accidents. Here is how their roles were distributed:

Alcohol-Impaired Crash Statistics by Setting

The 2023 Drunk Driving report by NHTSA contains data about the setting surrounding alcohol-impaired drivers including land use, weather, month, light conditions, and functional system. Here are some important numbers:

  • In 2021, the peak months for alcohol-impaired fatal car crashes were July and August, accounting for 9.7% and 9.6% of accidents, respectively. 
  • Urban areas witnessed the majority of alcohol-impaired fatal motor vehicle crashes, comprising 63% of incidents, while rural areas accounted for 37%.
  • Darkness proved to be a significant factor, with 68% of alcohol-impaired fatal crashes taking place at night, 28% occurring during daylight, 2% at dusk, and 1% at dawn.
  • Clear or cloudy weather persisted during 91% of alcohol-impaired fatal car crashes. 7% occurred in rainy conditions and the remaining 2% in other conditions
  • The rate of drivers under alcohol influence in fatal crashes was 31% during the night and 11% during the day, higher by around 2.8 times. 
  • On weekends, 28% of drivers involved in fatal accidents had consumed alcohol before driving, as opposed to the 16% recorded during weekdays. 

Drunk Driving Statistics by State

Drunk driving statistics by state include:

  • In 2021, 1,906 individuals in Texas were killed in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, the highest number in all of the United States. 
  • Texas was followed by California and Florida, with 1,370 and 1,019 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, respectively. 
  • The lowest number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in 2021 was in the District of Columbia (12).
  • 44% of Montana’s total traffic fatalities were alcohol-impaired driving fatalities. This is significantly higher than the national average of 31%. 
  • Montana also saw the highest rate of fatalities in accidents involving a driver with a BAC of 0.15g/dL or higher, at 31%. This is significantly higher than the national average of 21%

Do You Struggle with Alcohol Addiction? Get Help Today!

Alcohol addiction can harm your health and relationships. Recognize the signs: cravings, inability to limit drinking, neglecting responsibilities, and withdrawal symptoms. Reach out to us and get started with our rehabilitation program in our alcohol rehab in New Jersey

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is Drunk Driving a Crime in the U.S.?

Yes, drunk driving is treated as a crime in the U.S.

How Many Drunk Driving Arrests Occur in the U.S. Every Year?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around one million arrests are made in the U.S. for driving while alcohol-impaired. 

What Are the Dangers of Drunk Driving?

Alcohol reduces essential cognitive and physical functions required for safe driving. This is why alcohol impairment is strongly associated with reckless driving behaviors, increased likelihood of car collisions, and fatal car accidents. 

Does someone with alcohol intolerance has a higher risk of driving drunk? 

Yes, someone with alcohol intolerance has a higher risk of driving drunk because their body processes alcohol inefficiently. This results in a higher blood alcohol concentration, making them feel more intoxicated than they are. Consequently, they are more likely to be arrested for DUI even at lower alcohol consumption levels.

Data Sources

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html
  2. https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/impaired_driving/states.html
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/teen_drivers/teendrivers_factsheet.html
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html
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