Eye-Popping Stats About Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)

Driving under the influence (DUI) is also known as driving while intoxicated (DWI), drunk driving, or impaired driving.

DWI is the name for the offense of driving a motorized vehicle while impaired by alcohol. For alcohol, the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of the person operating the motor vehicle. BAC is a predetermined amount of alcohol in the blood that renders the driver incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle.

  • The legal BAC limit for driving and drinking in all 50 states is .08%.
  • An estimated 32% of fatal car crashes involve an intoxicated driver or pedestrian (NHTSA)
  • Three thousand nine hundred fifty-two fatally injured drivers tested positive for drug involvement. (FARS)
  • Over 1.1 million drivers were guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2015 (CDC)
  • Every day nearly 29 people in the U.S. die in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes( NHTSA)

If the police suspect someone may have been drinking while driving, they will test someone to see if they are over the legal limit. A drunk driver’s intoxication level is the percentage of alcohol in a particular volume of blood. States have set a specific threshold level of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) that automatically makes it a crime to be operating a motor vehicle. Check this graph of BAC and Car Crash Risk.

If the police suspect someone may have been drinking while driving, they will test someone to see if they are over the legal limit. First, the driver performs specific physical tests such as walking a straight line. Then, a ” breathalyzer gives the officers a rough idea what the driver’s approximate BAC level until doing an actual blood test.

  • .08 BAC is the legal limit for driving a motor vehicle in all 50 states.

There is a second higher level in some states that constitutes an “aggravated” category with more severe consequences. The criminal offense does not require the actual driving of the vehicle. Instead, it can include being in control of a car while intoxicated even if they are not driving it.

These same sets of laws apply to driving under the effects of narcotics, including prescription medication.

Drinking alcohol impairs a wide range of skills necessary for carrying out these tasks. This Alcohol Alert examines alcohol impairment of driving skills and describes factors that increase motor vehicle crash risk.

  • According to NIAAA, drinking, and driving claims more than 15,000 lives per year.
  • According to the department of justice, there were 1.1 million DUI arrests in 2015
  • Alcohol-related crashes cause an estimated $45 billion in damages a year.
  • Drunk driving costs the U.S. $199 billion per year.
  • A drunk driver has driven drunk an average of 80 times before his first arrest.
  • Every 2 minutes, a person is in a drunk driving crash.
  • The rate of drunk driving is highest among 21 to 25-year-olds.
  • In 2015, 29.1 million people admitted the driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • One person is killed every 51 minutes due to drunk driving.

Treatment of convicted DUI drivers generally emphasizes drinking behavior modification. The type and duration of treatment depend on the severity of the person’s drinking problem and DUI history. DUI offenders with less severe drinking problems benefit most from educational programs, although no known model effectively reduces recidivism or alcohol-related crashes.

For repeat offenders or those with more severe drinking problems, a therapy that lasts for at least 12 months and includes intensive programs focused on the individual appears to be most effective.

The proportion of alcohol to blood in the body is the blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In the field of traffic safety, BAC is the percentage of alcohol to blood, such as 0.10 percent (i.e., 0.10 grams per deciliter). A 160-pound man will have a BAC of approximately 0.04 percent 1 hour after consuming two 12-ounce beers or two other standard drinks on an empty stomach.

Driving are not all impaired at the same BAC’s. For example, a driver can divide attention between two or more visual information sources by a BAC of 0.02 percent or lower. However, it is not until a BAC of 0.05 percent or more is when impairment occurs consistently in eye movements, glare resistance, visual perception, reaction time, certain types of steering tasks, information processing, and other aspects of motor skills.

Some states now require offenders to use the “ignition interlock” devise. They are a “breathalyzer” installed on a motor vehicle’s dashboard. Before the car starts, the driver first must exhale into the device and pass a BAC test.

Legal sanctions, such as driver’s license suspension and court-ordered alcoholism treatment, are designed to deter drinking and driving. Driver’s license suspension and license revocation seem to be the most effective deterrents among the general driving population. However, a meta-analysis of strategies concluded that the most effective means for reducing re-arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol (DWI, DUI) and crashes were a combination of license suspension and interventions such as education, psychotherapy, counseling, and some follow-up.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) credits State laws raising the legal drinking age to 21 with preventing almost 1,000 traffic deaths annually. Legislation to reduce the BAC limit to 0.02 percent or lower, referred to as the “zero-tolerance law” for young drivers, has been passed by 29 States and the District of Columbia to reduce alcohol-related fatalities further. The National Highway Systems Act provides incentives for all States to reduce their BAC limits for drivers under 21 to 0.02 percent beginning October 1, 1998.