Apr 18

NHTSA Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fact Sheet

*Source: US Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Saftey Administration, DOT HS 811 606

Alcohol-Impaired Driving Drivers are considered to be alcohol-impaired when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. Thus, any fatal crash involving a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher is considered to be an alcohol-impaired driving crash, and fatalities occurring in those crashes are considered to be alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities. The term “driver” refers to the operator of any motor vehicle, including a motorcycle.

Estimates of alcohol-impaired driving are generated using BAC values reported to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and imputed BAC values when they are not reported. The term “alcohol-impaired” does not indicate that a crash or a fatality was caused by alcohol impairment.

In 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. These alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities accounted for 31 percent of the total motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States.

Traffic fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes decreased by 4.9 percent from 10,759 in 2009 to 10,228 in 2010. The alcohol-impaired-driving fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) decreased to 0.34 in 2010 from 0.36 in 2009.

An average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality occurred every 51 minutes in 2010.

In 2010, all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico had by law created a threshold making it illegal per se to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. Of the 10,228 people who died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in 2010, 6,627 (65%) were drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher. The remaining fatalities consisted of 2,872 (28%) motor vehicle occupants and 729 (7%) non-occupants.

Table 1

Figure 1

The national rate of alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities in motor vehicle crashes in 2010 was 0.34 per 100 million VMT. The alcohol-impaired-driving fatality rate in the past 10 years has declined by 29 percent from 0.48 in 2001 to 0.34 in 2010.


In 2010, a total of 1,210 children age 14 and younger were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those 1,210 fatalities, 211 (17%) occurred in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Out of those 211 deaths, 131 (62%) were occupants of a vehicle with a driver who had a BAC level of .08 or higher, and another 25 children (12%) were pedestrians or pedal-cyclists struck by drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher.

Time of Day and Day of Week

The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2010 was four times higher at night than during the day (37% versus 9%).

In 2010, 16 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes during the week were alcohol-impaired, compared to 31 percent on weekends.


Table 2


In fatal crashes in 2010 the highest percentage of drivers with a BAC level of .08 or higher was for drivers ages 21 to 24 (34%), followed by ages 25 to 34 (30%) and 35 to 44 (25%).

The percentages of drivers involved in fatal crashes with a BAC level of .08 or higher in 2010 were 28 percent for motorcycle riders, 23 percent for passenger cars, and 22 percent for light trucks. The percentage of drivers with BAC levels of .08 or higher in fatal crashes was the lowest for large trucks (2%).

Table 3

Figure 2

In 2010, 5,189 passenger vehicle drivers killed had a BAC of .08 or higher. Out of those driver fatalities for which restraint use was known, 70 percent were unrestrained.

Drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher involved in fatal crashes were four times more likely to have a prior conviction for driving while impaired (DWI) than were drivers with no alcohol (8% and 2%, respectively). See Figure 2.

In 2010, 85 percent (9,694) of the 11,432 drivers with a BAC of .01 or higher who were involved in fatal crashes had BAC levels at or above .08, and 58 percent (6,652) had BAC levels at or above .15. The most frequently recorded BAC level among drinking drivers in fatal crashes was .18.

Figure 3