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In 2018 there were 10,511 people killed in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers (defined as drivers or motorcycle riders with blood alcohol concentrations of >.08 g/dL). This is a decrease of 3.6% from the 10,908 fatalities in 2017 (NCSA, 2019). Fatalities in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers continue to represent almost one-third (29%) of the total motor vehicle fatalities in the United States. See also NHTSA’s most recent State Alcohol-Impaired-Driving Estimates Traffic Safety Facts (NCSA, 2020a) for additional national and State data.

Trends. Alcohol-impaired driving steadily decreased from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s. A study showed that much of this decrease could be attributed to alcohol-related legislation (e.g., .08 BAC, administrative license revocation, and minimum drinking age laws) and to demographic trends (e.g., population aging and the increased proportion of female drivers; Dang, 2008). However, substantial public attention during this period to the issue of alcohol-impaired driving included the growth of grassroots organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Remove Intoxicated Drivers, increased Federal programs and funding, State task forces, and increased enforcement and intensive publicity, which combined to help address this critical traffic safety problem.

Alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities changed very little from 1992 to 2007 as the chart shows, but began declining from 2008 to 2011, likely due in part to the economic recession during that period. Alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities decreased 2% from 2009 to 2018 (NCSA, 2019).


US Alcohol Impaired Driving Fatalities by Year and Number of Fatalities showing a decrease between 1982 and 2018

Source: NHTSA - FARS (1982-2018), NCSA (2019)


The next chart shows the rate of alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities, based on vehicle miles traveled, also declined noticeably over the last two decades. However, the percentage of U.S. fatalities that involved alcohol-impaired driving decreased only slightly during this time (NCSA, 2019).