It's a sobering thought to know that around 30% of the crash fatalities on US roads involve a drunk driver. This means about 11,654 deaths were preventable. This highlights the importance of sobering up before getting behind the wheel.
Drinking and Driving Statistics
In April 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its 2020 fact sheet. It details key findings about driving under the influence, and the impact it has on U.S. roads:
Of the 11,654 crash fatalities involving a drunk driver, 62% of those deaths were the driver. The other 38% accounts for passengers and occupants of other vehicles. It also includes others such as pedestrians and cyclists.
Drivers aged 21 to 24 years old and 25 to 34 years old each account for 26% of fatal crashes that involved drunk drivers.
For every female driver involved in a fatal crash, there were three male drivers. When the drivers were alcohol-impaired, this number jumped up to four male drivers for every female driver.
The authorities consider blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 g/dL intoxicated. Drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes often have far higher BAC levels. Around 55% had levels at or above .15 g/dL.
The weather only plays a small role in drunk driving crash fatalities. About 91% of fatal crashes occurred on clear or cloudy days, while only 7% happened in rainy conditions and 2% in other conditions.
Laws Against Drinking and Driving
Some states implement stricter penalties on driving under the influence (DUI) related offenses. They're also pretty tough on first-time offenders, and it's not a simple "do better next time" slap on the wrist. Even first-time offenders experience harsh penalties for DUIs.
Your first offense won't go unnoticed by the Arizona authorities. In 2007, it implemented a law that places first-time offenders under severe restrictions. These include:
Installing an ignition interlock system for 12 months
Jail time of no less than 10 consecutive days
Paying a fine of no less than $1,250 and performing community service
Being required to go for alcohol treatment, screening, and education
Having your license immediately suspended if you are under 21 and alcohol is detected in your system through a blood test
There are different penalties for extreme DUIs for first offenders, which are BAC levels of .15 g/dL and higher:
Jail time of no less than 30 consecutive days without probation or suspended sentence eligibility
A fine of no less than $2,500 and community service
Your license will be revoked for 12 months
Being required to get an ignition interlock system and undergo alcohol treatment, screening, and education
Montana has a bad history of road fatalities caused by drivers under the influence. This has spurred the state to make drastic changes to its DUI laws, even for first-time offenders. Penalties include:
Jail time of at least 24 hours and up to six months
A $600 to $1,000 fine that doesn't include court costs
A six-month license suspension
The possibility of the installation of an ignition interlock system
Things get a little more intense for drivers under the influence when passengers under the age of sixteen are in the car when they're pulled over. Along with a fine that can go up to $2,000, there's also the possibility of a felony criminal endangerment charge. There's also jail time of up to a year.
Drinking and Driving Affects Other Drivers, Too
A jarring statistic is that 38% of the fatalities caused by driving under the influence are innocent bystanders such as passengers, other drivers, and even pedestrians. While you might decide to avoid intoxication before you get behind the wheel, there's no telling what another driver might do. That means driving for everyone else on the road. Our defensive driving course might just help you build the skill you need to avoid a collision when encountering a driver under the influence.