Alcohol-Impaired Driving

Fatal Crashes and Fatalities Involving Alcohol-Impaired Drivers

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

In 2007, 12,998 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. These alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities accounted for 32 percent of the total motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States.Traffic fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes decreased nearly 4 percent from 13,491 in 2006 to 12,998 in 2007. The alcohol-impaired-driving fatality rate per 100 million VMT decreased to 0.43 in 2007 from 0.45 in 2006.

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.The 12,998 fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during 2007 represent an average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 40 minutes.

In 2007, 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 12,998 people who died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in 2007, 8,644 (67%) were drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher. The remaining fatalities consisted of 3,581 (28%) motor vehicle occupants and 773 (6%) nonoccupants.

The national rate of alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities in motor vehicle crashes in 2007 was 0.43 per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.


In 2007, a total of 1,670 children age 14 and younger were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those 1,670 fatalities, 245 (15%) occurred in alcohol-impaireddriving crashes. Out of those 245 deaths, more than half (130) were occupants of a vehicle with a driver who had a BAC level of .08 or higher. Another 29 children age 14 and younger who were killed in traffic crashes in 2007 were pedestrians or pedalcyclists who were 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 was four times higher at night than during the day (36% versus 9%).

In 2007, 15 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes during the week were alcohol-impaired, compared to 31 percent on weekends.


In fatal crashes in 2007 the highest percentage of drivers with a BAC level of .08 or higher was for drivers ages 21 to 24 (35%), followed by ages 25 to 34 (29%) and 35 to 44 (25%). The percentages of drivers involved in fatal crashes with a BAC level of .08 or higher in 2007 were 27 percent for motorcycle operators and 23 percent for both light trucks and passenger cars. The percentage of drivers with BAC levels of .08 or higher in fatal crashes was the lowest for large trucks (1%).

In 2007, 7,058 passenger vehicle drivers killed had a BAC of .08 or higher. Out of those 7,058 driver fatalities, for which restraint use was known, 73 percent were unrestrained. Drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher involved in fatal crashes were eight times more likely to have a prior conviction for driving while impaired (DWI) than were drivers with no alcohol (8% and 1%, respectively).

In 2007, 84 percent (12,068) of the 14,447 drivers with a BAC of .01 or higher who were involved in fatal crashes had BAC levels at or above .08, and 55 percent (7,974) had BAC levels at or above .15. The most frequently recorded BAC level among drinking drivers in fatal crashes was .16.

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