The Scope of the Problem
Each year in the United States, over 10,000 people die in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for almost 30% of all traffic-related deaths. Of the over 1,200 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years, approximately 17% involved an alcohol-impaired driver.1 According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Drugs other than alcohol are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes.” As more states relax or eliminate criminal laws against marijuana use, traffic incidents involving marijuana-impaired drivers have increased. Approximately 13% of all nighttime, weekend drivers have measurable amounts of 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 factors such as age and gender may account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users.2 In addition to crash involvement, more than 1 million drivers are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in the U.S. each year.
At all levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the risk of being involved in a crash is greater for young people than for older people.3 Among drivers with BAC levels of 0.08% or higher involved in fatal crashes each year, over one-fourth (26%) were ages 21 to 24 and nearly three in ten (27%) were between 25 and 34 years of age.4
Crash studies have revealed that a significant percentage of motorcyclists are riding while impaired. Among motorcyclists killed in fatal crashes each year, approximately 25% had BACs of 0.08% or greater.5 Further, the CDC found, “Motorcyclists ages 35-39 have the highest percentage of deaths with BACs of 0.08% or greater.”6
In addition to young adults and motorcyclists, drivers with prior driving while impaired (DWI) convictions often demonstrated impaired driving behaviors. In fact, according to the CDC, “Drivers with a BAC of 0.08% or higher involved in fatal crashes were 4.5 times more likely to have had a prior conviction for DWI than were drivers with no alcohol in their system. (9% and 2%, respectively)”.7
Preventing Deaths and Injuries from Impaired Driving8
Effective regulatory measures to reduce the incidence of impaired driving include:
• Actively enforcing existing BAC laws, minimum legal drinking age laws, and zero tolerance laws for drivers younger than 21 years old.
• Requiring ignition interlocks for all offenders, including first-time offenders.
• Using sobriety checkpoints.
• Putting health promotion efforts into practice that influence economic, organizational, policy, and school/community action.
• Using community-based approaches to alcohol control and DWI prevention.
• Requiring mandatory substance abuse assessment and treatment, if needed, for DWI offenders.
• Raising the unit price of alcohol by increasing taxes.
Effective personal measures to reduce the incidence of impaired driving include:
• Whenever your social plans involve alcohol and/or drugs, pre-plan so that you don’t have to drive while impaired.
• Before drinking, designate a non-drinking driver when with a group.
• Don’t let your friends drive impaired.
• If you have been drinking or using drugs, get a ride home, use a rideshare service or call a taxi.
• If you’re hosting a party where alcohol will be served, remind your guests to plan ahead and designate their sober driver.
• If you’re hosting a party, offer alcohol-free beverages, and make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.
https://www.cdc.gov/MotorVehicleSafety/Impaired_Driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html (All endnotes)