Drinking and Driving Statistics

Alcohol, even ingested in small quantities, affects the way people drive. The risk of being involved in a car crash increases as the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises. In fact, if you drink and drive with a BAC bigger than 80mg per 100ml, you are exposing yourself 3 times more to being involved in a crash than a sober driver.

If you think that driving drunk is a minor concern, take a look at some drinking and driving statistics and you may never combine those two again.

It’s worth noting that these statistics are representative of the US population and refer mainly to the year 2003 when an estimated 17,013 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes, an average of one death every 31 minutes!


This factor plays an important role in the way people drink and drive and this information about drinking and driving shows its importance. Overall, young people are at the highest risk of driving drunk and getting involved in a car accident.

  • Young drivers, and especially, young white males, cause a large share of the alcohol-crash problem;
  • Young drivers between with ages between 15 and 20 years old are more often involved in alcohol-related crashes than any other age group;
  • Motor crashes are the leading cause of death for people from 15 to 20 years old;
  • In 2003 only 5% of drivers over the age of 70 have been involved in a crash while driving intoxicated. This population has in general the smallest likelihood to be intoxicated (BAC of 0.08 g/dl or greater) in fatal crashes.


It’s a known fact that men are consistently more likely than women to be driving at the time of a fatal crash.

  • Male drivers involved in fatal crashes were twice as likely to have been intoxicated than female drivers;
  • In 2003, 28% of the young male drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking at the time of the crash, compared with 13% of the young female drivers involved in fatal crashes;
  • The intoxication rates (those over 0.08 BAC) for male drivers involved in fatal crashes were 25%, compared with 12% for female drivers;
  • Overall, young drivers, and especially, young white males are responsible for a large share of the alcohol-crash problem.

Blood alcohol concentration

BAC represents the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream as you drink. BAC is calculated by determining how many milligrams of ethanol are present in 100 milliliters of blood.

  • 0.02 BAC affects driving ability and crash likelihood. The risk of a motor crash is significantly big at 0.05 BAC and rises fast after 0.08 BAC ;
  • at 0.08 BAC, virtually all drivers are impaired, which includes critical driving tasks such as divided attention, reaction time, steering, observing traffic signs and judgment in general;
  • In 2003, 34% of all traffic fatalities occurred in crashes in which at least one driver or nonoccupant had a BAC of 0.08 g/dl or greater;
  • From 83% of driving age who have heard of BAC levels, only 27% can correctly identify the legal BAC limit for their state;
  • In states where the legal limit of BAC has changed from 0.01 to 0.08, alcohol-related fatalities have reduced with almost 7%;
  • If every state would have a 0.08 BAC law, then 400 to 600 lives would be saved each year.


  • A recent study reflected 12.9% of Caucasian high school students drive after drinking alcohol, compared to 11.7% for Hispanic and 9.1% for African Americans;
  • In 2002, Caucasians were more likely than any other race/ethnicity group to report drinking; in opposition, the Asians had the lowest drinking rate;
  • Native Americans have a rate of arrest for alcohol violations more than double the national rate; arrests of Native Americans under the age of 18 for alcohol-related violations are also twice the national average;
  • Fatally injured African Americans are less likely to wear a belt at the time of the crash than are Caucasian Americans;
  • The Hispanic children ages 5-12 have the highest risk (72%) to die in a motor vehicle crash than non-Hispanic children;
  • In a recent survey, Hispanic students (38.3%) were significantly more likely than Caucasian students (30.2%) to have ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.


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