Facts and Laws about Drinking and Driving

Perhaps the single most dangerous driving practice is driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Defensive driving techniques and knowing the rules of the road simply cannot compensate for driving while impaired. Impaired drivers endanger themselves and others, and they risk severe legal and financial consequences. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most compelling facts and statistics that can help drive the point home.

Drinking and Driving Statistics

Drivers make hundreds of decisions for each mile they drive — unless they have been drinking. Alcohol inhibits our ability to make safe and responsible decisions. Slower reaction time, coupled with poor decision-making, could mean real trouble, potentially leading to a collision that could have been prevented.

Sadly, this has led to a staggering fact: approximately 32 people die every day in drunk driving accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) collects data and publishes updated statistics on drunk driving collisions. Some more surprising facts from their latest report include:

  • One alcohol-related driving death occurs every 45 minutes in the U.S. 

  • Approximately 30% of all traffic crash fatalities in the U.S. involve drunk drivers.

  • In 2020, there were 11,654 alcohol-impaired driving traffic deaths, marking a 14.3% increase from 2019.

  • The rate of alcohol-impaired driving accidents is approximately 3.1 times higher at night than during the day.

  • In 2020, 229 children aged 14 and younger were killed in alcohol-related car crashes.

Laws Against Drinking and Driving

In most states, driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) results in an automatic license suspension after the first conviction. It’s also important to note that driving while drunk is only one form of impaired driving. Driving while intoxicated or impaired by any substance, legal or illegal, is against the law. This includes driving while taking a narcotic prescription medication and operating a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana or any other recreational drugs.

U.S. states and territories have different laws and penalties for driving while intoxicated. However, all states except Utah have laws against driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above 0.08% for people 21 years of age and above. In Utah, the BAC limit is 0.05%. Almost all states also impose additional penalties if the BAC is significantly above the .08% limit.

Every state in the U.S. also has “implied consent” laws which state that by holding a license, drivers are assumed to have given consent to have their blood alcohol content tested.

Underage DUIs

Teens shouldn’t think they get off the hook just because they are underage. States have varying “zero tolerance” BAC levels, which apply to drivers who are under the age of 21. This ranges from 0.00% to 0.02%, depending on the state where you’re driving. Even one drink can put you over the limit, and you’ll wind up with an underage DUI. The conviction usually comes with years of probation, license suspensions, hundreds or thousands in fines, and mandatory DUI education. 

Consequences of a DUI Conviction

Driving under the influence is illegal in every state and comes with significant penalties that get more severe with each DUI conviction. No matter what state you’re in, you can expect to pay hefty fines, lose your license for a while, and have to make modifications to your vehicle.

DUI Fines

Every DUI conviction comes with a fine. How much that fine will be varies by state. A survey from Nolo taken by people convicted of a DUI found that the average court-ordered fines for a first-time DUI offense were $1,100.

DMV Fees

When you get a DUI charge, there’s a good chance that your license is going to be suspended. If that happens, you have to pay the DMV reinstatement fees. The average amount of these fees is approximately $260.

Ignition Interlock System

All states currently have laws requiring an ignition interlock system on vehicles of people convicted of certain DUI offenses. In some locations, these devices are even installed on the vehicles of first-time offenders. Typically, the offender has to pay for the installation, which is about $150-200. This type of penalty is also expanding and will likely become more common.

Insurance Denial and Increases

In some states, insurance companies can also punish drunk drivers who are injured in an accident they caused by denying payment for the driver’s injuries. Insurance companies also routinely raise the auto insurance rates of people convicted of a DUI or refuse to insure them in the future. The Nolo survey found the average auto insurance increase after a DUI or DWI is about $800 a year.

Keep Yourself Safe on the Road

As you can see, driving while under the influence is an all-around bad idea. You can avoid the legal and financial penalties associated with a DUI or DWI conviction by never getting behind the wheel after you’ve had a drink.

Unfortunately, you can’t always control what other drivers do. Taking a defensive driving course can help you learn techniques to avoid potential collisions with other drivers who may be driving under the influence. DriversEd.com’s online courses are easy, fun, and affordable. Start exploring your options now.

Take your Traffic School or Defensive Driving Course Online Today!

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Updated 9/16/22