Why undertake this research?
Alcohol-impaired driving is a major factor in the tens of thousands of deaths that occur every year on U.S. roads. In 2010 alone, 10,228 people were killed in such crashes. Although the number of alcohol-impaired crashes has dropped in recent years, since 1997, about a third of all fatally-injured passenger vehicle drivers had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above the legal limit.
Alcohol affects many of the abilities associated with driving including concentration, perceptions, judgment, decision-making, and reactions. As a result the risk of a crash increases rapidly as a driver’s BAC increases. The primary means used to discourage alcohol-impaired driving has been the passage of strong laws and their enforcement, with sanctions for those who are caught. Laws in every State make it illegal to drive if BAC measures 0.08 g/dL or above. The majority of drivers obey these laws, but many violate them frequently and they do so without substantial risk of being caught. Recent estimates indicate that there are as many as 112 million alcohol-impaired driving trips each year in the United States. However, there is very little chance of being arrested. In 2009 only about 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol; about one percent of the total trips. Based on these estimates an alcohol-impaired driver can drive about 80 times without the threat of being caught. Thus, even if every driver convicted of drunk driving was not able to continue to drink and drive, many impaired drivers still would go undetected, and continue to add to the thousands of lives lost on our roads every year.
Drunk Driving Facts
During 2010, 10,228 people in the U.S. died in alcohol-impaired motor vehicle crashes, representing about a third percent of all traffic-related deaths (NHTSA, 2012)
In 2010, 85 percent of (9,694) of drivers with BACs of 0.01 g/dL or higher who were involved in fatal crashes had BACs that were at or above 0.08 g/dL, and 58 percent (6,652) had BACs at or above 0.15 g/dL – almost twice the legal limit. The most frequently recorded BAC among drinking drivers involved in fatal crashes was 0.16 g/dL. (NHTSA, 2012).
Alcohol involvement in fatal crash peaks at night. Between 9pm and 6 am 59 percent of fatally-injured passenger vehicle drivers in 2010 had BACs at or above the legal limit of 0.08 g/dL, compared with 18 percent during other hours (IIHS, 2012).
The IIHS estimates that about 7,082 deaths could have been prevented in 2010 if all drivers on the road had BACs below 0.08 g/dL (IIHS, 2012).