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NHTSA’s 2018 data on drunk driving crashes in the United States

| Feb 25, 2020 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

In December, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its latest analysis of drunk driving accidents in the U.S., which uses data from 2018. The agency analyzes data from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), to which law enforcement across the country reports whenever a crash occurs on a public trafficway and results in the death of at least one person within 30 days of the accident.

The analysis reveals some interesting information about impaired driving accidents in the U.S., along with dispelling some myths. Here are some highlights:

Nationwide, there were an estimated 10,511 fatalities in 2018 from traffic accidents in which at least one driver had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. That’s an average of about 1 fatality every 50 minutes. DUI-related crash deaths accounted for 29% of all nationwide traffic fatalities that year. Tennessee saw a slightly better average with only 23% of traffic fatalities related to drunk driving.

Motorcyclists seemed to drive impaired at high rates. Motorcyclists were the impaired drivers in 25% of 2018 fatal accidents involving at least one driver with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. That’s especially interesting because motorcyclists typically ride for only part of the year. Comparatively, drivers of passenger cars were the impaired driver in 21% of cases, drivers of light trucks in 19% and drivers of large trucks only 3% of the time.

Younger people are more prone to drunk driving accidents. People between 21 and 24 years old were the most likely (27%) to have a BAC of 0.08% or higher when involved in fatal crashes.

Drunk driving is much more common at night. It was 3.4 times as likely that a fatal crash would involve a drunk driver at night than during the day.

High BAC driving is common in fatal DUI accidents. Of all the drunk-driving related fatalities in 2018, 67% involved at least one driver with a BAC of 0.15% or higher.

Drunk drivers are not invulnerable. Some people think that a drunk driver’s relaxed physical state will protect them in a crash. In fact, 61% of those killed in 2018 drunk driving accidents were the impaired drivers themselves. Moreover, 31% of drivers in single-vehicle crashes were impaired, compared to only 13% of those involved in multi-vehicle crashes.

Drunk driving deaths are down somewhat. Since 2009, the number of fatalities in accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers has dropped by 2%.

Drunk driving is a complex societal problem, as these statistics indicate. If you have been arrested for DUI, especially if you were involved in an accident, you should contact an experienced defense attorney right away.

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