Key insights + statistics
- More than a quarter (25%) of all traffic-related deaths are the direct result of alcohol impairment. (NHTSA)
- Every day, 30 people in the United States die in car crashes with an alcohol-impaired driver. This is one death every 50 minutes. (CDC)
- As of last year (2020), about 290,000 are injured in such accidents every year. (NHTSA)
- Drunk driving cost the United States $132 billion in 2011. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving)
- 10,511 people died in alcohol-related accidents in 2018. (NHTSA)
- In 2017, more than 10,800 people were killed in drunk driving incidents. (NHTSA)
- In 2016, 10,497 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver. These deaths accounted for 28% of all U.S traffic-related fatalities. (CDC)
- Drivers with a Blood Alcohol Content of over 0.10 are 7 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than sober drivers. (Responsibility.org)
- Over 10,000 Americans a year are killed by drunk drivers, about 1,000 of them being children. (CDC)
How many people die from drunk driving?
According to NHTSA, 10,511 people died in alcohol-related accidents in 2018. However, the CDC has identified that 30 people die every day in the United States in alcohol-related car accidents. For the mathematicians out there, that means a death every 50 minutes. If that's not shocking enough, for comparison, only 26 people die from lightning strikes each year. Drunk driving is a serious epidemic and must be treated as such. If you find yourself incapable of driving after a night of drinking, always call a friend or rideshare before ever attempting to get behind the wheel of a car. Driving while drunk is not worth the risk or the lives of you and your loved ones.
With research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the National Safety Council, The Zebra has compiled the most up-to-date and recent drunk driving statistics and data. The Zebra has also conducted further research in order to create a broader picture of this driving epidemic. When using our data, please be sure to cite the correct source.
Table of contents
- Drunk driving statistics in 2021
- Drunk driving statistics in 2020
- Drunk driving statistics in 2019
- Drunk driving statistics by year
- Drunk driving fatalities by state
- Drunk driving statistics by age
- Drunk driving vs. gun violence statistics
- DUI and DWI facts
- Drunk driving prevention
- How does a drunk driving ticket impact car insurance rates?
- Frequently asked questions about drunk driving
Drinking and driving is a behavior that endangers 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 1500 American drivers to determine their perceptions and self-reported habits. Our survey has indicated that in the past year, dangerous behaviors surrounding drunk driving have decreased:
- 38% of respondents recognize that alcohol has a strong effect on them, while only 30.5% believed this last year in 2020.
- Only 23.7% of survey respondents say 4 or fewer drinks will prevent them from drinking, while last year this was more than a quarter of all respondents.
- Admission of driving while intoxicated dropped between 2020 and 2021: Only 17.3%, compared to last year's 18.9%, have driven while buzzed.
While many work individually to prevent drunk driving, others are quick to blame different generations:
- 37.8% of respondents believe that millennials (Generation Y) as the generation most likely to drink and drive.
- 29.4% of respondents believe that Generation Z (16-24-year-olds) is the generation most likely to drive drunk.
- 18.9% identified Generation X (40-54-year-olds) were the most likely to drive while drunk.
- 13.9% saw the Baby Boomer generation (55-75-year-olds) as the ones with the highest risk of drinking and driving.
Using similar benchmarks and questions from a 2019 survey also by The Zebra, the results from a 2020 survey of 1500 American drivers indicate that many 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 was 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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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:
Number of fatalities
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.
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.
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.
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 a 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.
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 about 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.
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.
Question: How many people died from drunk driving in 2018?
Answer: 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.
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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 April 2021.
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