What is Impaired Driving and How Prevalent is the Problem?

Home  »  Car Accidents   »   What is Impaired Driving and How Prevalent is the Problem?

What is Impaired Driving and How Prevalent is the Problem?

What is Impaired Driving and How Prevalent is the Problem?

May 19, 2021

Drunk (or alcohol-impaired) driving is a scourge that can tragically impact anyone without warning, regardless of how experienced we are behind the wheel or how many precautions we take. Impaired driving accidents and fatalities are entirely preventable, and through education and increased measures by law enforcement we are seeing the number of annual cases thankfully decline. However, many people continue to be senselessly impacted by drunk driving each and every day.

What is Impaired Driving and How Prevalent is the Problem?

Let’s take a look at some key impaired driving statistics, including the number of car accidents per year, the number of fatalities annually, and the rate at which drunk driving has decreased over the last few decades.

How Does Alcohol Affect/Impair Driving Ability?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirms that alcohol is a substance which can reduce the function of the brain and impair thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination. All of these faculties are essential to safely operating a motor vehicle.

As alcohol levels rise in a driver’s system, the negative effects on the central nervous system increase. Alcohol is absorbed directly through the walls of the stomach and small intestine. It then passes into the bloodstream where it accumulates until finally being metabolized by the liver. A driver’s alcohol level is measured by the weight of the alcohol within a specific volume of blood, known as ‘Blood Alcohol Concentration’ (or BAC).

A driver with a BAC of .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter (g/dL) of blood is at an exponentially higher risk of being involved in a car accident. Given the risk that impaired drivers pose to the general population, it is illegal in all 50 states (as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. In Utah, the BAC limit is .05.

According to the NHTSA, even a minute amount of alcohol can affect one’s driving ability. In 2018, there were reportedly 1,878 people killed in alcohol-related crashes where drivers had lower alcohol levels (BACs of .01 to .07 g/dL). That means some of those drivers were involved in car accidents after having only one drink.

BAC is measured with a breathalyzer. A breathalyzer is a device that measures the amount of alcohol in a driver’s breath. A blood test can also measure a driver’s BAC.

To better illustrate how even small amounts of alcohol can impair a driver’s abilities, the NHTSA has issued the following chart:

The Effects of Blood Alcohol Concentration

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) in g/dL Typical Effects Predictable Effects on Driving
.02 Some loss of judgment; relaxation, slight body warmth, altered mood Decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target), decline in ability to perform two tasks at the same time (divided attention)
.05 Exaggerated behavior, may have loss of small-muscle control (e.g., focusing your eyes), impaired judgment, usually good feeling, lowered alertness, release of inhibition Reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, reduced response to emergency driving situations
.08 Muscle coordination becomes poor (e.g., balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing), harder to detect danger; judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory are impaired Concentration, short-term memory loss, speed control, reduced information processing capability (e.g., signal detection, visual search), impaired perception
.10 Clear deterioration of reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately
.15 Far less muscle control than normal, vomiting may occur (unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance for alcohol), major loss of balance Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and in necessary visual and auditory information processing
Table describing BAC and typical effects of various BAC levels

How Many Impaired/Drunk Driving Incidents Happen a Year?

Annual Self-reported Alcohol-impaired Driving Episodes among U.S. Adults, 1993–2014

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2016. That number equals just 1% of the 111 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults every year (see figure below provided by the CDC).

Our experienced attorneys can help you pursue a financial award for your personal injury case. Contact us online or by phone for a free consultation today.

How Many Deaths are Caused by Impaired/Drunk Driving?

The NHTSA confirms that approximately 28 people die in drunk driving car accidents every day. That equals one impaired-driving fatality every 52 minutes.

In 2016, 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Those drunk driving car accidents accounted for 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the United States that year. Additionally, of the 1,233 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2016, 214 (17%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

Year Total traffic fatalities Alcohol-related traffic fatalities % of fatalities from alcohol
2019 36,096 10,142 28%
2018 36,560 10,511 29%
2017 37,473 10,908 29%
2016 37,806 10,967 29%

Has Drunk Driving Increased or Decreased?

Has Drunk Driving Increased or Decreased?

In 2019, alcohol-impaired driving deaths reached the lowest percentage since 1982 (when the NHTSA first started reporting data). However, that still means that over 10,000 people were killed in drunk driving car accidents – all of which were preventable.

What Age Group is Most Likely to Drive Drunk/Under the Influence?

A data aggregator website known as The Zebra conducted a survey in 2020 with 1500 American drivers. The drivers were asked to indicate whether or not they recognize the dangers of drunk driving. The findings were rather disturbing, as many drivers – especially those among the Generation Y and Z age groups – seemed to harbor beliefs about impaired driving that are simply not true.

According to the survey by The Zebra:

  • Over a quarter (26.1%) of respondents said it takes 3-4 alcoholic drinks for them to feel unfit to drive, while 6.1% said it takes more than five (as stated earlier, it takes only one).
  • The majority (30.8%) of people believe that after a DUI (driving under the influence citation), a driver should lose their license – but only temporarily.
  • 28.1% of the total group believed it should take two DUIs to lose your license permanently.
  • In data comparable to a 2019 survey, 40.3% of people call a friend or a significant other to pick them up after drinking, while 25.7% use rideshare, and a full 10% actually just walk home. These three options were also the most popular in the 2019 survey.
  • 3.5% of respondents ages 25-34 prefer to use a motorized scooter service (e.g. Bird, Lime) to drive home after a night of drinking instead of a rideshare. That means those respondents actually believe operating a scooter – which can be very dangerous when completely sober – is a preferred option to taking an Uber or Lyft rideshare.
  • Most people are aware of their own personal limits regarding alcohol: 30.5% don’t believe they have a high tolerance and won’t drive after drinking.
  • 18.9% of respondents admit to driving while “buzzed.” 2.1% admitted to driving while “high,” and 5.6% admitted to driving while buzzed and high.

While many of those statistics are troubling, it’s important for all drivers to remember that ‘buzzed driving’ is drunk driving, and those who operate a motor vehicle under the influence of any substance may face serious legal repercussions.

Contact our top-rated team of expert car accident attorneys online or by phone today to pursue justice and secure a financial award for damages.

How Prevalent is Marijuana/Cannabis Use Among Drivers?

How Prevalent is Marijuana/Cannabis Use Among Drivers?

The CDC confirms the following statistics:

  • Marijuana/cannabis use is increasing, and 13% of nighttime/weekend drivers are reported to have marijuana in their system.
  • Marijuana users were about 25% more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use. However, other risk factors – such as age and gender – may account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users, according to the CDC.
  • Removing alcohol from the equation, drugs (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes.

Studies Show Car Accidents Spike After Marijuana Legalization

How Can Drivers Practice Responsible Behavior When Drinking?

The NHTSA has outlined specific recommendations for reducing drunk driving accidents. Essentially, planning and preparation for how you’ll get home after a night of drinking can help eliminate many impaired-driving car crashes.

The NHTSA recommends drivers:

  • Plan your safe ride home before you start the party – choose a non-drinking friend as a designated driver.
  • If someone you know has been drinking, never let that person get behind the wheel. Take their keys and help them arrange a sober ride home.
  • If you choose to drink, do not drive for any reason. Call a taxi, a ridesharing service, or a sober friend.
  • If you’re hosting a party where alcohol will be served, ensure every guest leaves with a sober driver.
  • Always wear your seat belt – this is, without question, your best defense against impaired drivers.

Additionally, the NHTSA recommends that if you see a potential problem, you take action. If you witness an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement immediately. Failing to take action could lead to another senseless drunk driving tragedy.

Injured in a Drunk Driving Car Accident? Get the DLG Advantage

When a car accident occurs due to someone’s negligence or malice – including impaired driving – the victim injured (or killed) as a result of those actions has grounds to file a civil lawsuit and recover financial damages. A personal injury lawsuit may be filed up to two years after the date of the accident in the state of California. However, it is recommended that injured car accident victims secure the representation of a skilled and qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible to ensure that the claim is filed properly and all evidence is preserved and recovered.

At DLG, our Car Accident Division provides unique benefits to injured victims throughout California who have suffered an impaired driving crash. Our decades of experience and 98% success rate make us the number one choice for impaired driving car accident lawsuits. We have successfully recovered more than $100 million for injured victims like you, and we’re here to fight just as aggressively on your behalf in your time of need.

Our founder and president, Sam Dordulian, previously served as Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County. With over 100 jury trial victories, Dordulian brings a wealth of experience to every impaired driving car accident case that can’t be found at other firms. As a result of Dordulian’s courtroom experience, we have the unique advantage of preparing every case for trial. This ensures that if an insurance company tries to get away with a lowball settlement offer after an impaired driving accident, we simply take the case to court and prove it before a jury.

This advantage means our car accident clients never have to worry about not recovering a maximum financial damages award after an unfortunate impaired driving crash. Additionally, two of our attorneys previously worked as defense counsel for major auto insurance companies. Their experience with these huge corporations can now be used to the advantage of our clients – as every insider trick they might attempt will be effectively countered by our attorneys own first-hand experience.

Furthermore, we launch a thorough investigation for every car accident case we handle. Investigations are led by a retired LAPD detective who spent much of his nearly 30-year career with the department’s elite Central Traffic Division. Moses Castillo will investigate your impaired driving claim and ensure that every piece of critical evidence that can help prove your claim and increase your damages award is recovered.

If you’ve been injured in an impaired driving car accident, don’t let the driver get away without facing justice. Contact Dordulian Law Group today to learn more about what it means to get the DLG Advantage for drunk and impaired driving car accident claims.

Go See Sam