The consumption of alcohol significantly elevates the chance of a crash due to the reduced ability to pay attention to the road. A blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% is considered legally impaired. However, alcohol can start to affect many of your senses after only one drink. Traffic deaths are most likely to be alcohol related among males, Native Americans and Mexican Americans, people ages 21 to 45, those who die in motor vehicle crashes on weekend nights, and people with symptoms of alcohol dependence. As shown in figure 1, in 1982 when NHTSA first made nationwide estimates, there were 26,172 alcohol-related traffic deaths.
- Because of the way alcohol distributes itself throughout body fluids, it is possible to measure a person’s alcohol level by testing the urine, saliva, or water vapor in the breath, as well as by testing the blood.
- All states have laws prohibiting driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol.
- Imagine what impact your brutal and untimely death would have on all the people in this scenario.
- A DUI can set you back, on average, $10,000, and there could be a crash — people could get hurt or killed.
- Additionally, fatal crashes involving a 0.08% BAC level or higher are charged as alcohol-impaired driving fatalities.
When operating a motorized vehicle, your judgement skills play an important role in how you make decisions. For instance, you need to be able to foresee potential problems and make clear decisions if another vehicle cuts you off. Your judgement helps you stay alert and aware of surrounding conditions consequences of drinking and driving while driving. Just one drink before driving can put you and others in danger, because alcohol impairs thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination. Take our short alcohol quiz to learn where you fall on the drinking spectrum and if you might benefit from quitting or cutting back on alcohol.
Tips for driving safely
In recent years, 21 to 24 year olds had the highest percentage of drivers in fatal crashes with a BAC level of 0.08% or higher – 32%. Many of these cases involved binge drinking, a form of consuming too much alcohol in a short period of time. This often affects college students and young professionals who attend parties and other social events that have easy access to alcohol. It is also estimated that 1.5 million people are arrested each year for driving under the influence of alcohol. Impaired driving continues to be a serious traffic safety and public health issue for the entire country.
Consider calling a cab or using a rideshare app to get yourself and your loved ones home safe and protect everyone else on the road. Better yet, if you are going to be drinking away from home, use those options to get to the party so you don’t have a car handy that you’ll be tempted to drive when your judgment is impaired by alcohol. A 160-pound person drinking two 12-ounce beers within an hour would probably have a BAC of 0.04, well below the legal limits of driving under the influence, but 1.4 times more likely to have an accident than someone who is sober. If you drive while impaired, you could get arrested, or worse — be involved in a traffic crash that causes serious injury or death. In 2021, there were 2,266 people killed in alcohol-related crashes where a driver had a BAC of .01 to .07 g/dL. For those who wish to know more about drinking and driving, the effects of alcohol, and the punishments that you might face if you get caught driving over 80, the frequently asked questions below should help illuminate the matter further.
The Cost of Drinking and Driving
The greater decline in alcohol-related traffic deaths among 16- to 20-year-olds is in part attributable to the adoption of age 21 as the legal drinking age, which occurred in all States by 1988. A review of more than 49 studies of changes in the legal drinking age revealed that in the 1980s and 1990s when many States lowered the legal drinking age, alcohol-related traffic crashes involving drivers under 21 increased 10 percent. In contrast, when States increased the legal drinking age to 21, alcohol-related crashes among people under 21 decreased an average of 16 percent (Shults et al. 2001). In the United States, roughly 28 people die every day in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver.
If you’ve ever driven after drinking in the past, you have a road map to examine all the decisions you made along the way that led to you getting behind the wheel. At the heart of many decisions to drive drunk is the concern of how to get from point A to point B. But people who live in rural areas often don’t have access to these alternative modes of transportation. Yet, despite widespread education about the perils, people drive under the influence all the time. The reasons range from lack of planning and lack of resources to a person’s location or even their upbringing. After an individual is arrested for a DUI-type offense, they will go to court for an arraignment.
Wait for your BAC to drop before driving
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that nearly 88 percent of those aged 18 and older have consumed alcohol at least once in their lifetime, and about 57 percent have had an alcoholic beverage in the past month. Driving drunk happens for many reasons, but the reasons are all based on impulsive decisions that can have ramifications that last a lifetime. Unfortunately, when we’re inebriated, our decision-making abilities are also highly impaired. Researchers have identified seven possible decision points that can lead to drinking and driving (4). The study on Montana young adults also points to how the culture of drinking in one’s family can play a role in someone’s decision to drink and drive. Even following that guide, you could still end up with a BAC over the legal limit.
Those who started drinking before age 14 were seven times more likely to have been in a drinking-related motor vehicle crash at any time in their lives (14 percent vs. 2 percent) and in the past year (0.7 percent vs. 0.1 percent) (Hingson et al. 2002). Because the average age of respondents in the survey was 44, these findings indicate that those who start drinking at an early age are more likely to be in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes during both adolescence and adulthood. National surveys also reveal that males and people ages 21 to 45 are the most likely to drive after drinking. Although drivers ages 16 to 20 accounted for only 12 million of 957 million drinking–driving trips in 1999, the average BAC among young drinking drivers was 0.10 percent, more than three times the average BAC level for all drinking drivers.