The Facts About Drunk Driving
One of the most dangerous things a driver can do is get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol. In 2012, 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-related car accidents, representing 31% of all traffic fatalities. About 30 people in the United States die every day as a result of drunk driving, which works out to approximately one death every 51 minutes, and one person is injured every 90 seconds. In Michigan alone, 2,912 people were killed in alcohol-related car accidents between 2003 and 2012.
All types of motor vehicles are dangerous to operate while under the influence of alcohol. Just because a vehicle isn’t a car, that doesn’t make it any safer to use. Motorcycles, boats, jetskis, ATV’s, and snowmobiles should never be operated by a person who has been drinking.
The type of alcohol consumed makes no difference in whether a person is too drunk to drive; it all depends on the amount of alcohol consumed. In all fifty states and in Washington D.C., it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. At a BAC of 0.08%, a person loses muscle coordination, has a slowed reaction time, is prone to lapses in judgement and self-control, is less able to accurately judge how dangerous a situation is, and is less capable of processing visual information. For drivers under the age of 21, it is illegal to drive under the influence of any amount of alcohol.
Drunk drivers are a danger to everybody on the road, but some groups of people are at higher risk of being in fatal alcohol-related traffic accidents. 29% of motorcyclists who were in fatal accidents in 2012 had a BAC of 0.08% or higher. Drivers who are involved with with a BAC of 0.08% or higher are seven times more likely to have a previous DWI conviction. It is estimated that a drunk driver drives under the influence 80 times before they are arrested for the first time. In 2010, 1.4 million people were arrested for driving under the influence, but 112 million people admit to driving while intoxicated every year.
Young people are also at an increased risk of being in a fatal, alcohol-related traffic accident. In 2012, about ⅓ of drivers who were in fatal drunk driving accidents were aged 21 to 24 and 27% were between 25 and 34. In 2012, 1,168 traffic deaths involved children younger than 14 and 20% of them involved a drunk driver and over half of that 20% were riding in a car with an impaired driver.
Alcohol-related traffic accidents happen at all times and on all days of the week, but they happen more frequently at night and on weekends. In 2012, 58% of drivers involved in fatal car accidents between the hours of 9:00 PM and 6:00 AM had a BAC of 0.08% or higher, compared to 19% during other hours. 46% of drunk drivers fatally injured in car accidents were injured during weekends (from 6:00 PM Friday through 6:00 AM Monday), compared to 24% on weekdays.