Drunk driving statistics show how serious driving under the influence can be. The legal definition of drunk driving, also known as driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), is when a person drives with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or above.
Around 32 people die in DUI crashes in the United States every day, meaning there is one death every 45 minutes. Aside from causing deaths, accidents involving a DUI can cause serious injuries. If you have been injured or lost a loved one from an accident involving a drunk driver, you can pursue compensation for the harm that you have suffered.
Overview of Drunk Driving Statistics
In 2020, there were 11,654 fatalities resulting from car crashes caused by alcohol-impaired driving. This accounted for approximately 30% of all traffic-related fatalities. Of these deaths, 62% were the drunk drivers themselves. The cost of these accidents, including medical costs and damages for lives lost, was estimated to be around $123.3 billion. In the 10-year period from 2011 to 2020, there were an average of roughly 10,000 drunk driving fatalities per year in the United States.
In Nevada in 2019, there were a total of 92 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, accounting for 30.3% of all traffic-related fatalities that year.
A driver with a BAC of .10% is 7 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident, while a BAC of 0.15% and higher raises this risk, making drivers 25 times more likely to be in such an accident. Even if a driver has a BAC below the legal limit of 0.08%, there is a risk. Impairment of driving skills begins at a BAC of 0.02%, and even drivers who drive with a BAC below 0.08% are 1.4 times more likely than a sober driver to be in an accident.
Effects of Alcohol on Drivers
Safe driving requires you to concentrate, make good judgments, and react swiftly. Alcohol-impaired driving affects these skills in several ways:
Slow Reaction Time
When you are alcohol-impaired, your ability to respond to situations is slowed. There are many hazards on the road at any given time that you might have to react to swiftly. These hazards can be animals on the road, the car in front of you braking suddenly, unexpected debris in the road, or pedestrians.
Usually, drivers can process situations with enough time to react and avoid a collision. If you have alcohol in your system, however, your reaction and processing times are slowed, and you might not be able to react in time to avoid the hazards.
Loss of Coordination
Having alcohol in your system impacts your body’s nervous system, influencing your motor skills and coordination. While the legal BAC limit is 0.08%, your hand-eye coordination is impaired by 20% at BAC levels that are as low as 0.015%.
When a driver is pulled over for a DUI screening, one of the things that law enforcement officers test when performing sobriety tests is hand-eye coordination. If you have difficulty standing straight, sway while standing, and cannot walk in a straight line, your coordination has been impaired. Your impairment can even reach a level that causes to you struggle getting into your car or putting keys in the ignition.
Coordination while driving is crucial, as you must use pedals and steer effectively to avoid other vehicles, pedestrians, and any hazards that might appear on the road. If your coordination is impaired, you have a much higher risk of causing a collision.
The part of your brain that is responsible for rational thinking and judgment-making is affected by intoxication. Alcohol can reduce inhibitions and make clear thinking and decision-making difficult.
According to one study, driving while intoxicated caused drivers to feel more adventurous while driving, drive faster, have a decline in their vigilance, experience divided attention, and have reduced judgment ability. The drivers even felt that the vehicle was traveling slower than it was, causing them to drive faster.
All of these inhibitions on judgment create dangers while driving, as drivers are less able to process information and control their driving adequately, increasing the likelihood of an accident.
There are many tasks involved in driving. You have to focus on steering, controlling your speed, staying in your lane, being aware of other cars on the road, and following traffic signals. Alcohol impacts concentration, making it difficult to focus on these tasks. It makes you more easily distracted, and you are more likely to engage in forms of distracted driving, such as fiddling with the radio or talking on the phone. If your concentration is impaired, you are also less likely to anticipate potential hazards on the road and avoid them.
When you are intoxicated, your vision can become blurry, because alcohol relaxes the muscles that control your eyes. This influences the ability to judge distances between you and other vehicles. It also reduces your peripheral vision. Reduced vision makes you less likely to be able to see objects, hazards, or other cars on the road in enough time to avoid a collision.
Consequences of Driving Impaired
There are many consequences of drunk driving that can be severe or even life-changing.
Harm to the Driver and Other People
There is always the risk of an accident, causing injury and death. Drunk driving statistics have shown the dangers of impaired driving. A drunk driver who injures others can cause severe consequences for victims. Injuries sustained in a drunk driving accident can impact a victim long-term or even for the rest of his or her life. The drunk driver can also cause the death of another person.
Receiving a DUI on its own can have financial repercussions because of heavy fines, legal costs, and possibly needing bail money. However, the consequences can be even greater if there was an accident. Victims may suffer further economic costs from an accident.
Economic costs of an accident can include:
- Lost earnings.
- Medical and legal costs.
- Property damage
- The cost of sustaining a disability
A person who caused an accident because of drunk driving will have to pay these costs for him or herself, but will likely also have to compensate others for the financial damages that the other person suffers as a result. If the driver has insurance coverage, the policy may have a clause on how drunk driving can affect car accident claims, and he or she might not receive compensation from the policy.
Common Injuries Caused by a Drunk Driver
There are some common injuries that are caused by drunk driving. Victims may suffer from amputation, where a hand, foot, finger, or limb can either be severed during a crash or damaged so severely that it cannot be saved. A person may suffer head and brain injuries, broken bones, and spinal cord injuries.
A victim might also suffer injuries that cannot be immediately seen, such as internal injuries to organs. A drunk driving accident can also cause mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. In the worst cases, a drunk driving accident can lead to death.
Making a Claim Against a Drunk Driver
If you have been injured or lost a loved one because of a crash caused by a drunk driver, a car accident lawyer can help you receive compensation.
Driving while impaired is usually considered a form of negligence. If you can prove that the defendant was drunk while driving, and you were less than 50% at fault, then you can file a successful claim for damages.
Typical evidence used to prove that someone was under the influence of drugs or alcohol includes the police report, or DUI breath or blood test results showing a BAC of at least 0.08%. Video footage showing the driver not being able to walk in a straight line, swaying while standing, struggling to stand, or talking with slurred speech can help indicate intoxication. Witnesses who observed drunken behavior, or confessions that the driver gave to police at the scene, can also be useful to prove your claim.
If you can prove that the other driver was intoxicated, you should be able to receive compensatory damages. These are for expenses relating to the accident, including past and future medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and lost earning capacity if your injuries affect your ability to work. If the victim died, you may also be able to claim funeral expenses and loss of financial support.
You may also be able to claim non-monetary damages. These include physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, or loss of companionship if you have a loved one who was killed in an accident. If you have lost a loved one, you may also be entitled to compensation for the loss of financial support, loss of companionship, and funeral expenses.