Fatal Crashes and Fatalities Involving Alcohol-Impaired Drivers
Drivers are considered to be alcohol-impaired when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. Thus, any fatality occurring in a crash involving a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher is considered to be an alcohol-impaired-driving fatality. The term “driver” refers to the operator of any motor vehicle, including a motorcycle.
In 2008, 11,773 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. These alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities accounted for 32% of the total motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States. Traffic fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes decreased nearly 10% from 13,041 in 2007 to 11,773 in 2008. The alcohol-impaired-driving fatality rate per 100 million VMT decreased to 0.40 in 2008 from 0.43 in 2007. Estimates of alcohol-impaired driving are generated using BAC values reported to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and imputed BAC values when they are not reported.
The term “alcohol-impaired” does not indicate that a crash or a fatality was caused by alcohol impairment. The 11,773 fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during 2008 represent an average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 45 minutes.
In 2008, all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico had by law created a threshold making it illegal per se to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. Of the 11,773 people who died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in 2008, 8,027 (68%) were drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher. The remaining fatalities consisted of 3,054 (26%) motor vehicle occupants and 692 (6%) nonoccupants.
The national rate of alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities in motor vehicle crashes in 2008 was 0.40 per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.
In 2008, a total of 1,347 children age 14 and younger were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those 1,347 fatalities, 216 (16%) occurred in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. Out of those 216 deaths, 99 (46%) were INNOCENT occupants of a vehicle with a driver who had a BAC level of .08 or higher. Another 34 children age 14 and younger who were killed in traffic crashes in 2008 were pedestrians or pedalcyclists who were struck by drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher.
Time of Day and Day of Week
The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes was four times higher at night than during the day (36% versus 9%). In 2008, 15 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes during the week were alcohol-impaired, compared to 32 percent on weekends.