Drunk driving statistics

Key insights + statistics

  • More than a quarter (25%) of all traffic-related deaths are the direct result of alcohol impairment (NHTSA).
  • 29 people die each day in automobile accidents that involve a drunk driver (CDC).
  • Around 800 people per day are injured in a drunk driving crash and 30 people die (NHTSA). 
  • If a driver's BAC is above 0.10, they are seven times more likely than a sober driver to be involved in a fatal accident (VeryWellMind).
  • Federal data show young people between the ages of 21 and 24 account for one-third of drivers arrested for DWI (BJS).
  • In 2017, 32% of people who died in alcohol-related car crashes were passengers (III).

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How many people die from drunk driving each year?

Behind distracted driving, drunk driving is the number one cause of most car accidents in the US and, by far, the most deadly. Alcohol physically changes the brain's chemistry and inhibits common sense, fear, and motor skills. Put that combination behind the wheel of a two-ton metal battering ram capable of going 100 miles an hour, and you have a recipe for disaster. Both young and old are susceptible to the belief that "only one drink won't hurt," as the data will show. Buzzed driving is drunk driving, and it is dangerous.

The Zebra conducted and collected research from the CDC, the NHTSA, and the DoT to give a complete and accurate look at the dangers and effects of drunk driving. Familiarize yourself with the data before ever considering drinking and driving.

 

Table of contents
  1. Statistics from 2020
  2. Statistics from 2019
  3. Drunk driving fatalities by state
  4. Drunk driving statistics by age group
  5. Are college students more likely to drink and drive?
  6. Drunk driving vs. gun violence statistics
  7. DUI and DWI facts
  8. How to prevent distracted driving
  9. The impact of drunk driving on car insurance premiums
  10. FAQs about drunk driving

 

Drunk driving statistics in 2020

Drinking and driving is a behavior that endangers the lives and increases the insurance costs of drivers across the United States. 

The Zebra set out to explore the current state of American attitudes and behaviors toward drunk driving by conducting a survey of American drivers to determine their perceptions and self-reported habits. Using similar benchmarks and questions from a 2019 survey also by The Zebra, the results indicate that most American drivers recognize the dangers of drunk driving — a statement that has varied little from last year's survey with one notable exception: most people believe that millennials are most likely to drive drunk.

  • 35.8% of respondents identified Generation Y, also known as millennials (age group 25-39 year olds), as the most likely to drink and drive.
  • The next group identified as the most likely age group to drive drunk were Gen Z (16-24 year olds) with 31.0%.
  • Only 19% of respondents believe Gen X (40-54 year olds) were most likely to drink and drive.
  • A little over 14% (14.1%) of all respondents claimed that the Baby Boomers generation (55-75 year olds) were the most suspect to drink and drive.
age group most likely to drink and drive

Other findings of this 2020 survey included:

  • Over a quarter (26.1%) of respondents said it takes 3-4 alcoholic drinks for them to feel unfit to drive, while 6.1% said it takes more than five. 
  • The majority (30.8%) of people believe that after a DUI, a driver should lose their license but only temporarily. Interestingly, 28.1% of the total group believed it should take two DUIs to lose your license permanently. 
  • In data comparable to last year's survey, 40.3% of people call a friend or a significant other to pick them up. 25.7% use rideshare, and a full 10% actually just walk home. These three options were also the most popular in last year's survey.
  • 3.5% of respondents ages 25-34 prefer to use a motorized scooter service (i.e. Bird, Lime) to drive home after a night of drinking over rideshare.
  • Most people are aware of their limits regarding alcohol: 30.5% don't believe they have a high tolerance and won't drive after drinking.
  • 18.9% of respondents admit to driving while buzzed. 2.1% admitted to driving while high, and 5.6% admitted to driving while buzzed and high. Remember buzzed driving is drunk driving and you can still face legal repercussions if pulled over while buzzed!

2019 drunk driving statistics

In early 2019, The Zebra, the nation's leading insurance comparison website, launched a new survey to identify awareness around drunk driving behavior patterns and beliefs in drivers in the U.S. The below data, sourced from publicly available resources and The Zebra's survey, begins to paint a picture of US drivers' thoughts on drinking and driving.

  • 20.1% of responders aged 35 to 44 know someone who has been killed in a drunk-driving accident. 
  • 26.6% of female respondents aged 18 to 24 admitted to driving while buzzed.
  • 37.4% of college-age respondents believed they were fit to drive after 3 or 4 drinks.
  • 50.2% of 18 to 24 years olds said they use rideshare (Lyft, Uber, etc.) every time they go out drinking.
  • 55.9% of respondents — all ages — don't use rideshare at all.
  • 45% of female respondents call a friend or significant other for a ride home after drinking.
  • 29.8% of male respondents use a rideshare vehicle to get home after drinking.

Data support the concern that while many recognize and are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving, it is still an ongoing issue among American drivers and is still a huge concern for highway safety. Research showed a notable distinction between female and male drivers' approaches to the issue. 

drunk driving_limit of drinks

 

Drunk driving statistics in the United States (2006 - 2017)

The following data points are taken from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Safety Council, and the National Institute of Health.

  • From 2006-2016, the NHTSA reported more than 10,000 deaths from drunk driving collisions and impaired drivers.
  • In 2007, more than 56,000 traffic fatalities occurred on American roads. Of these fatal crashes, 22% of the drivers were drunk.
  • Nearly 33,000 fatalities occurred in motor vehicle crashes in 2010 alone. The total cost of societal harm caused by these incidents was $836 billion. 5.26% of this cost came via fatalities caused by intoxicated drivers.
  • In 2016, Montana and North Dakota reported the highest the alcohol-impaired-driving fatality percentages at 45%. Mississippi and Utah reported the lowest alcohol-impaired-driving fatality percentages at 19%. 
  • In 2017, nearly 2,000 people died in alcohol-related traffic fatalities in which the driver was less-impaired than the established blood-alcohol content limit. 

Drunk driving fatalities by state 

The following statistics are taken from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Please refer to CDC's website for additional information regarding the data below.

Between the years 2003 and 2011, there were 119,100 drunk driving fatalities in the United States. Here are the 16 states with the most drunk driving deaths during that eight-year period:

State

Fatalities

Texas

13,138

California

10,327

Florida

8,476

Pennsylvania

4,663

North Carolina

4,102

South Carolina

3,870

Illinois

3,866

New York

3,752

Georgia

3,699

Ohio

3,637

Tennessee

3,423

Missouri

3,314

Alabama

3,190

Louisiana

3,046

Drunk driving by age

Please refer to the NHTSA's Traffic Safety Facts and the Department of Transportation for additional data concerning the data below:

  • Vehicular collisions are the leading cause of death for minors.
  • In 2013, 42% of drivers in drunk driving deaths were aged 16 to 24.
  • In 2013, almost 120,000 emergency rooms treated young people with injuries related to alcohol and driving.
  • Four years later, in 2017, 16- to 24-year-olds comprised 42% of the drivers killed in alcohol-related crashes.
  • During 2017, the highest percentage of drunk drivers were 21- to 24-year-olds, at 27%, followed by 25- to 34-year-olds.

Drunk driving and college students

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is one of the active civilian organizations against underage drinking and driving. For more details around the following data, visit madd.org:

  • Almost 2,000 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from unintentional alcohol-related injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.
  • College-aged drivers are involved in almost 19% of drunk driving accidents.
  • According to several reports, an estimated 18% of drivers under the age of 21 have admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • While male college students were more likely to engage in risky behavior such as driving and drinking, both male and female college students were likely to do so to some degree.
  • Almost 50% of underage students with access to a car admitted to driving after having anything to drink. One in five admitted to driving while intoxicated.
Persons Killed In Total And Alcohol-Impaired Crashes

 

Drunk driving vs. gun violence statistics

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Gun violence kills 30,000 people each year.
  • For every one person who dies from a gunshot wound, two others are wounded or maimed. 
  • Every year, approximately 100,000 Americans are involved in a gun-related accident.
  • 2018 saw more than 18,000 gun-related accidents that led to injury. The same year, 4.5 million people were injured in car collisions.

DUI & DWI information

The following data is taken from academic sources, including The Alcohol Pharmacology Education Partnership and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The legal, federal amount (or limit) BAC for driving safely is 0.08%. BAC stands for blood-alcohol concentration (or content) and that is a percentage of the amount of alcohol that is in a driver's bloodstream. 

While police have a tool to measure BAC (a breathalyzer), the formula for calculating BAC is as follows:

[Alcohol consumed in grams / (Body weight in grams x r)] x 100.

R = gender constant, r = 0.55 for females and 0.68 for males.

While there is a federal standard for BAC, there is no standard definition for charging a driver with a DUI or DWI. 

Certain states define a DWI as Driving While Intoxicated. Under those laws, there may not be a difference between a DUI and DWI charge. A driver can be charged with a DUI or DWI after failing a field sobriety test (which includes the testing of reaction time), even with a BAC below the state's legal limit. If a driver is under 21, some law enforcement policies may pursue DUI charges at blood alcohol level of 0.01%. There is no standard federal precedent concerning first-time offenders vs. repeat offenders. How you will be punished for a DUI or DWI will be determined by the individual judge in your case.

Below are the violations for receiving a dui or dwi in all 50 states:

StateJail TimeViolations Fines and FeesLicense SuspensionIgnition Interlock Device Required?
AlabamaNone$600 - $210090 DaysNo
AlaskaMin. 72 hours$1500Min. 90 DaysYes
ArizonaMin. 24 hours$250 base fine90 to 360 daysYes
Arkansas24 hours to 1 year$150 - $10006 monthsYes
California4 days to 6 months$1400 - $260030 days to 10 monthsYes in some counties
Colorado180 days or 1 year$500 - $1000none (DWAI) to 9 monthsNo
Connecticut2 days to 6 months$500 - $10001 yearNo
DelawareMax 90 days$300 - $11006 monthsNo
Florida6 to 9 months$500 to $2000180 days to 1 yearYes
Georgia24 hours to 1 year$300 - $1000Up to 1 yearNo
HawaiiNone$150 - $100090 daysNo
IdahoUp to 6 monthsUp to $100090 to 180 daysNo
IllinoisUp to 1 yearUp to $2500Min. 1 YearNo
Indiana60 days to 1 year$500 to $5000Up to 2 yearsNo
Iowa48 hours up to 1 year$625 - $1200180 daysYes, if BAC is above .10
Kansas48 hour min.$750 - $100030 daysYes
KentuckyNone$600 - $210090 daysNo
Louisiana2 days to 6 months$100090 daysPossible
Maine30 days$50090 daysNo
Maryland2 months to 1 year$500 - $1000Min 6 monthsNo
MassachusettsUp to 30 months$500 - $50001 yearNo
MichiganUp to 93 days$100 - $500Up to 6 monthsPossible
MinnesotaUp to 90 Days$1000Up to 90 daysYes
MississippiUp to 48 hours$250 - $100090 daysNo
MissouriUp to 6 monthsUp to $50030 daysPossible
Montana2 days up to 6 months$300 - $100030 daysPossible
Nebraska7 to 70 daysUp to $500Up to 60 daysNo
Nevada2 days to 6 months$400 - $100090 daysPossible
New HampshireNone$500 to $12006 monthsNo
New JerseyUp to 30 days$250 - $5003 months to 1 yearPossible
New MexicoUp to 90 days/td>Up to $500Up to 1 yearYes
New YorkNone$500 to $10006 monthsYes
North Carolina$24 hours to 12 months$20060 days to 1 yearNo
North DakotaNone$500 - $75091 to 180 daysNo
Ohio$3 days to 6 months$250 - $10006 months to 3 yearsNo
Oklahoma5 days to 1 yearUp to $100030 daysNo
Oregon2 days or 80 hours of community service$1000 to $62501 yearYes
PennsylvaniaNone$300NoYes if chemical test refused
Rhode IslandUp to 1 year$100 - $5002 to 18 monthsNo
South Carolina$40 hours to 90 days$400 - $100030 days to 1 yearNo
South DakotaUp to 1 year$100030 days to 1yearNo
Tennessee48 hours to 11 months$350 - $15001 yearYes
Texas3 to 180 days$Up to $200090 to 365 daysNo
Utah40 hours min.$700 min.120 daysNo
VermontUp to 2 yearsUp to $75090 daysNo
VirginiaMin. 5 days$7221 yearYes if BAC is .15 or above
Washington24 hours to 1 yer$865.50 to $500090 days 1 yearYes
West VirginiaUp to 6 months$100 to $100015 to 45 daysPossible
WisconsinNone$150 to $3006 to 9 monthsNo
WyomingUp to 6 monthsUp to $75090 daysYes if BAC is above .15 or above
Washington DCMax 6 months$500 to $15001 to 2 yearsNo

How to prevent distracted driving

Each year in the United States, thousands lose their lives in fatal crashes caused by drunk drivers. Yet some may argue that the current awareness around the dangers of drunk driving is not enough to prevent these deaths. Below are additional facts around impaired driving and the social impact of this negative behavior.

  • Since Congress raised the drinking age to 21 in 1984, NHTSA estimates that minimum-drinking-age laws have saved 31,959 lives. 
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for every one arrest made for drunk driving or DUI/DWI, there is an estimated 500 to 2,000 drunk driving incidents go unpenalized.
  • 50% of teens age 21 or younger who died in car accidents were passengers, not motorists or motorcyclists. 
  • The NIAAA reported that in 2000, 24% of American eighth-graders reported having used alcohol in the past month, and 9% of them reported having been drunk in the past month.
  • Several studies have found that young teens who are more likely to be without adult supervision after school have significantly higher rates of drug and alcohol use than do adolescents receiving adult supervision. 

How does a drunk driving ticket impact car insurance rates?

Getting a DUI conviction is one of the more costly mistakes a driver can make. After comparing millions of rates, The Zebra found a dui violation can increase rates by 71.0% — more than $1,000 dollars a month in insurance premiums. Moving forward, whenever you search for car insurance, you may need to file an SR-22, an additional certification that states your insurance policy meets your state’s minimum car insurance requirements. It’s normally a requirement to have a suspension lifted from your license due to a violation (like a DUI or DWI). But that's just your insurance. You can lose your driver's license, face jail time and legal fees, as well as having an ignition interlock installed in your car. On a much more personal level, if you drink and drive, someone may use a loved one.premiums with 2 violations

FAQs about drunk driving

Q: How many people died from drunk driving in 2018?

A: According to NHTSA, 10,511 people died in alcohol-related accidents in 2018. In the same year, the FBI estimates over 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

Q: What is the percentage of drunk driving?

A: Based on a 2016 NHTSA study, 28% of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities were related to alcohol-impaired-driving. 

Q: Is drunk driving increasing or decreasing?

A: Between 1991 and 2017, the rate of drunk driving fatalities per 100,000 people decreased by nearly 50%. For drivers at the legal drinking age, that rate decreased by 68%. 

Q: What age group has the most drunk driving accidents?

A: In 2017, 16- to 24-year-olds comprised 42% of the drivers killed in alcohol-related crashes. 

Hit with a DUI violation? Compare now and find a lower insurance rate!

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Methodology

This study was conducted for The Zebra using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,000 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey was conducted in March 2020.

Copyright © 2020 InsuranceZebra, Inc. All rights reserved. For inquiries regarding this content, please contact our team at statistics@thezebra.com. 

 

Resources

Taylor Covington LinkedIn

An “everyday expert," Taylor researches the finer points of insurance, technology, and personal finance. She is also a frequent contributor to home and lifestyle publications. In her hometown city of Austin, Texas, she can be found reading at Half Priced Books, or eating the world's greatest pizza at Via 313.