How Many Deaths Are Caused by Drunk Driving?
Thousands of people lose their lives every year in alcohol-related crashes. This is a serious problem that must be addressed. The number of fatal crashes involving drunk drivers has decreased since 1991. However, even at its lowest point, the number of deaths caused by drunk driving is still very high. One in every three traffic accidents involves an alcohol-impaired driver.
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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 11,654 people died in drunk driving crashes in 2020. This is a decline of 50 percent from the 21,113 fatalities that occurred in the previous year. In addition to the decrease in overall death rates, a large part of the decline was due to the reduction of deaths that occurred during the so-called “100 Deadliest Days of Summer.” This period occurs between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
In California, 113 of the 214 fatal crashes that involved an alcohol-impaired driver were involving a driver under 21 years old. These crashes made up 11 percent of the total drunk driving fatalities that occurred in the state in a single year. During the same time, there were also a lot of drivers who were arrested for drunk driving. Almost two-thirds of these arrests were for a first offense. Those who had a prior DUI conviction were more likely to engage in risky behavior, including driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated, and engaging in other risky behaviors. Those with a second or subsequent conviction could be sentenced to up to 4.5 years in prison.
In a large majority of the United States, drunk driving crashes occur during the nighttime hours. These crashes also tend to occur in clear or cloudy weather, but the percentage of drunk driving fatal crashes that occur during these conditions is small. The number of alcohol-related fatal crashes that take place during daylight hours is slightly more than 30 percent. This is the highest rate among all alcohol-related fatalities.
In the United States, men are more likely to be driving under the influence of alcohol than women. About 23% of the drivers who were involved in drunk driving incidents were male, compared to 14% of women. In some parts of the country, such as New York, a woman has a higher rate of alcohol-related fatalities than a man. This is mainly a result of the laws that are in place. Those that are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol with a minor under the age of 14 are subject to imprisonment for one year as a first offender and a Class 6 felony. Those that have two or more felony convictions for driving under the influence can face up to 4.5 years in prison.
Alcohol-related homicides are the number one substance linked to fatalities and incarceration. In the United States, nearly four out of every five homicides were committed by someone under the influence of alcohol. The majority of these homicides took place in urban areas, but the numbers are also rising in small and medium-sized metropolitan areas.