According to research complied by David J. Hanson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Sociology of the State University of New York at Potsdam, most drivers who have had something to drink have low blood alcohol content or concentration (BAC) and few are involved in fatal crashes. On the other hand, while only a few drivers have BACs higher than .15, a much higher proportion of those drivers have fatal crashes.
- The average BAC among fatally injured drinking drivers is .16 1
- The relative risk of death for drivers in single-vehicle crashes with a high BAC is 385 times that of a zero-BAC driver and for male drivers the risk is 707 times that of a sober driver, according to estimates by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).2
- High BAC drivers tend to be male, aged 25-35, and have a history of DWI convictions and polydrug abuse. 3
Dr. Hanson also provides some historical context for how much has been done to combat drunk driving in the United States. While we must do even more to reduce drunk driving, we have already accomplished a great deal.
- Alcohol-related traffic fatalities have dropped from 60% of all traffic deaths in 1982 down to 31% in 2010. 34
- Alcohol-related traffic fatalities per vehicle miles driven have also dropped dramatically — from 1.64 deaths per 100 million miles traveled in 1982 down to 0.45 in 2006 (the latest year for which such statistics are available). 35
- The proportion of alcohol-related crash fatalities has fallen 52% since 1982, but the proportion of traffic deaths NOT associated with alcohol has jumped 78% during the same time. We’re clearly winning the battle against alcohol-related traffic deaths. 36
- 1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Performance Measures. NHTSA Budget Overview FY 2007. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2007. (nhtsa.dot.gov//nhtsa/whatis/bb/207/pages/NHTSAPerfMeas.htm+BAC+crashes&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=l&gl=us)
- 2. Testimony of Richard F. Healing, Member, National Transportation Safety Board before the House Judiciary Committee State of Maryland Regarding House Bill 763. February 12, 2004. (ntsb.gov/Speeches/healing/rfh040212.htm+high+BAC+drivers&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=4&gl=us)
- 3. Hedlund, James and James Fell. Repeat Offenders and Persistent Drinking Drivers in the U.S..Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2007
- 34. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 2010 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview. Traffic Safety Facts: Research Note. 2011 (December). DOT HS 811 552. Page 2, Table 3.
- 35. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2006 Traffic Safety Annual Assessment: Alcohol-Related Fatalities. Traffic Safety Facts: Research Note. 2007. DOT HS 810 821. Page 1, Figure 1.
- 36. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 2010 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview. Traffic Safety Facts: Research Note. 2011 (December). DOT HS 811 552. Page 2, Table 3; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Fatalities in 2010 Drop to Lowest Rate in Recorded History. NHTSA Press Release. April 1, 2011.