Facts and Laws about Drinking and Driving

Drinking and driving facts are sobering: Drunk drivers kill and injure thousands of people each year, and children are injured at a disproportionate rate compared to adults.

Drinking and Driving Statistics

The organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) collects and publishes current statistic on drunk driving crashes. These are some statistics for the U.S.

  • Approximately 800 people are injured each day in drunk driving accidents, totaling to 290,000 alcohol-involved traffic accident injuries each year. 
  • Approximately 10,000 people are killed each year in vehicle accidents involving a drunk driver.
  • Approximately 83 percent of drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes are between the ages of 21 and 44 years old.
  • Three times as many males are arrested for impaired driving as females each year.
  • In studies of driver sobriety, on an average weekday, over 12 percent of drivers randomly pulled over tested positive for illegal drugs, and more than 15 percent test positive for drugs on weekend nights. 
  • Over one million people are arrested each year for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Drunk driving accidents are four times more likely to occur at night than during the day. 
  • Every day in the U.S., approximately 29 people die in drunk driving accidents, and each year about 215 children under age 14 die as a result of a drunk driving accident.   

Laws against Drinking and Driving

Driving while drunk on alcohol is one form of impaired driving or driving while intoxicated (DWI), also called driving under the influence (DUI). Most states automatically suspend or limit driver’s licenses on the first conviction of a DUI or DWI offense.

Driving while intoxicated or impaired by any substance, legal or illegal, is against the law. This includes driving while taking 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 percent for people 21 years of age and above. In Utah, the BAC limit is 0.05 percent.

Other legal BAC limits are:

  • 0.01 percent or higher for people under 21 years of age
  • 0.04 percent or higher if the vehicle requires a commercial license, whether or not the driver has the correct license
  • 0.01 percent or higher if the person is currently on probation for a DUI

Almost all states and the territory of Guam also impose additional penalties if BAC is significantly above the .08 percent level.

Consequences of a DUI Conviction

All states currently have laws requiring an ignition interlock system on the cars of people convicted of certain DUI offenses. In some locations, these devices are even installed on the vehicles of first-time offenders. 

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 DUI or refuse to insure them in the future. 

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