What is the connection between fatal car crashes and driver intoxication?

FARS Statistics
Overview: In 2009, 62% of the total fatal motor vehicle accidents occurred when the driver was not under the influence of alcohol (BAC = 0.00%); 6% occurred when the driver had a BAC of 0.01-0.07%, and 32% occurred when the driver had a BAC over 0.08%. Therefore, the total number of fatal motor vehicle accidents that occurred when the driver was under the influence of alcohol was 38%. When the driver’s BAC was over 0.08%, 25% of the time that driver was male and 14% of the time the driver was female. 66% of the time these fatal accidents occurred between the hours of midnight and 3:00am. There is additional information regarding fatal accident percentiles for each state.


  •  Person’s killed by STATA and BAC level of driver:


Academic Articles
“Alcohol Impaired Drivers Involved in Fatal Crashes by Gender and State, 2007-2008.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (2008). (Available in the NCSC library).
While there was an overall drop of 9% in the number of alcohol-related fatal crashes between 2007 and 2008, the number alcohol-impaired female and male drivers increased in 15 and 13 states respectively. This article gives statistics the incidents of male v. female alcohol-impaired drivers for all fifty states.
Beck, Kenneth, Sarah Kasperski, Kimberly Caldeira, Kathryn Vincent, Kevin O’Grady, and Amelia Arria. “Trends in Alcohol-Related Traffic Risk Behaviors Among College Students,” Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, (2010).

Alcohol-related traffic risk behaviors are quite common among college students, and take a significant upturn when students reach the age of 21. Prevention strategies targeted to the college population are needed to prevent serious consequences of these alcohol-related traffic risk behaviors.
Bingham, C. Raymond, Jean T. Shope, Julie Parow and Trivellore Raghunathan. “Crash Types: Markers of Increased Risk of Alcohol-Involved Crashes among Teen Drivers,” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 4, 70 (2009): 528-535.

Teens were relatively less likely than adults to be involved in alcohol-related crashes but were significantly more likely to be in alcohol-related crashes that included other crash characteristics. Teen males' crash risk was highest when drinking and driving with a passenger, at night, at night with a passenger, and at night on the weekend, and casualties were more likely to result from alcohol-related nighttime crashes. All the highest risk alcohol-related crash types for teen female drinking drivers involved casualties and were most likely to include speeding, passenger presence, and nighttime driving.

Cotti, Chad and Nathan Tefft. “Decomposing the Relationship between Macroeconomic Conditions and Fatal Car Crashes During the Great Recession: Alcohol and non-alcohol related accidents.” University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Bates College (2011). http://www.bates.edu/economics/files/2010/05/cotti_tefft_2011.pdf
That the number of fatal accidents fell by over 17% after the beginning of the recent recession, regardless of whether or not the incident was alcohol related.

Czech, Susanne, Anthony Shakeshaft, Joshua Brynes and Christopher Doran. “Comparing the Cost of Alcohol-Related Traffic Crashes in Rural and Urban Environments,” Accident Analysis and Prevention 42, (2010): 1195-1198 (Available in the NCSC library).
Although the rate per 10,000 population of alcohol-related crashes is 1.5 times higher in rural,
relative to urban, communities, the attributable cost is four times higher, which largely reflects that rural alcohol-fatalities are seven to eight times more prevalent and costly.

Dang, Jennifer N. “Statistical Analysis for Alcohol-Related Driving Trends 1982-2005,
NHTSA Technical Report, (May 2008).

The number of fatal crashes that involved drivers who had been drinking at the time of the crash has decreased during the past two decades. The proportion of crash fatalities that are alcohol-related – that occurred in crashes where at least one of the drivers and/or nonoccupants involved had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above – decreased at a steady rate from 53 percent in 1982 to 34 percent in 1997. It leveled off for two years and then increased by 1 percent in 2000 and remained at that level for two more years before it decreased to 33 percent in 2005. The proportion of drivers involved in fatal crashes who had BAC of .08 or above decreased from 35 percent in 1982 to 20 percent in 1997 and leveled off thereafter.

Fell, James C., Scott Tippett ands and Robert Voas. “Fatal Traffic Crashes Involving Drinking Divers: what have we learned?” Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine 53, (2009): 63-76. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256806/
The United States enjoyed a remarkable downward trend in alcohol-related crashes between 1982 and 1995, which has since leveled off. That trend coincided with a period during which per capita national alcohol consumption declined, the number of young drivers decreased, and the proportion of female drivers increased. Those factors alone, however, did not appear to account for the overall reduction. This provides further evidence that impaired-driving laws and safety program activity may have been responsible for at least some of the decline. However, there was a general worldwide decline in alcohol-related crashes during the same period, and other socioeconomic factors may have played a role.
Hingson, Ralph, Timothy Heeren, and Michael Winter. “Lowering State Legal Blood Alcohol Limits to .08%: The Effect on Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes.” American Journal on Public Health 9, 86 (1996). 1297-1299.

This article shows the result of a survey that found that an increase in the state’s legal BAC limit from .10% to .08% resulted in a significant decrease in the number of alcohol-related fatal accidents.

Jackson, C. Kirabo and Emily Greene Owens. “One for the Road: Public Transportation, Alcohol Consumption, and Intoxicated Driving,” Cornell University (2009).

This article finds that when Washington D.C. expanded their public transportation programs, especially at night, the average number of fatal alcohol-related driving incidents decreased by as much as 40%.

Males, Michael. “Traffic Crash Victimizations of Children and Teenagers by Drinking Drivers Age 21 and Older.” Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs 3, 71 (2010): 351.
Drinking drivers age 21 and older caused an estimated 2.7 million crashes from 1998 through 2007 that victimized persons younger than age 20, killing 3,630 children below the age of 16 and 4,290 teens ages 16-19 and injuring 470,000 children and 390,000 teens. Drinking drivers age 21 and older victimize 1.3 times more teenage drivers than vice versa and account for large majorities of passenger and nonoccupant alcohol-related crash victimizations of both children and teens.

McCarthy, Melissa, Peilin Sheng, Susan Baker, George Rebok and Guohua Li. “Validity of Police-Reported Alcohol Involvement in Fatal Motor Carrier Crashes in the United States Between 1982 and 2005,” Journal Safety Resolution 3, 40 (2009): 227-232. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2721688/
In a study looking at the incident of alcohol-related crashes and the weight of the vehicle, motor carrier drivers were significantly more likely (51%) to have BAC testing results compared to non motor carrier drivers (31%) (p < 0.001). The sensitivity of police-reported alcohol involvement for a BAC level ≥ 0.08 was 83% (95% CI 79%, 86%) for motor carrier drivers and 90% (95% CI 89%, 90%) for non motor carrier drivers. The specificity rates were 96% (95% CI 95%, 96%) and 91% (95% CI 90%, 91%), respectively.

Phillips, David and Kimberly Bewer. “The Relationship between Serious Injury and Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) in Fatal Motor Vehicle Accidents: BAC = 0.01% is associated with significantly more dangerous accidents than BAC=0.00%.” Society for the Study of Addiction, (2011). http://www.faddintl.org/pr/phillips_brewer_bac_paper_addiction.pdf
Accident severity increases significantly even when the driver is merely ‘buzzed’, a finding that persists after standardization for various confounding factors. Three mechanisms mediate between buzzed driving and high accident severity: compared to sober drivers, buzzed drivers are significantly more likely to speed, to be improperly seatbelted and to drive the striking vehicle. In addition, there is a strong ‘dose–response’ relationship for all three factors in relation to accident severity (e.g. the greater the BAC, the greater the average speed of the driver and the greater the severity of the accident).

Pickrell, Timothy and Marc Starnes. “Analysis of Alcohol-Impaired Young Drivers in Fatal Crashes,” NHTSA Technical Report (December 2011).

This analysis explores and then models the relationship between the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of young drivers 16 to 20 and a comparison group of drivers 21 to 34 years old involved in fatal crashes and the following factors about the crash, as reported to NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) in data years 2000 to 2009: restraint use, previous DWI conviction, driver licenses status, number of vehicles involved in the crash, estimated vehicle speed, vehicle type, number of vehicle occupants, driver gender, time of day, day of week, holiday period, season, rural/urban status, and region of the country.

Romano, Eduardo and Robert Voas. “Drug and Alcohol Involvement in Four Types of Fatal Crashes,” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 4, 72 (2011): 567-576. http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=24332590
The aim of this study was to explore the relationship of drunk and drugged driving to the occurrence of fatal crashes associated with speeding, failure to obey/yield, inattention, and seat belt nonuse. This study provides further evidence of a link between drug consumption and fatal crashes.
Romano, Eduardo, Tara Kelley-Baker and Robert Voas. “Females and Alcohol-Related Fatal Crashes.” Transportation Research Circular (2009). http://www.nmprevention.org/Project_Docs/Young%20Impaired%20Drivers.pdf#page=28
This study suggests that the increased involvement of young female drivers in fatal crashes was partially caused by an increase in their crash exposure. This study further indicates that young female drivers might also become more prone to involvement in “improper maneuvering” crashes and in risk-taking crashes, such as those related to speeding.

Roudasri, Bahman, Suhasini Ramisetty-Mikler, and Lori Rodriguez. “Ethnicity, Age, and Trends in Alcohol Related Driver Fatalities in the United States,” Traffic Injury Prevention 5, 10 (2009): 410-414. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15389580903131506
The proportion of alcohol-impaired driver deaths was higher among males compared to females, with Hispanics constituting the highest proportion in all age groups. During the past 8 years, only the decline in the proportion of alcohol-impaired driver deaths among male Hispanics 16–20 years old and male Whites 21–64 years old were significant.
Shope, Jean T. and C. Raymond Bingham. “Teen Driving: Motor Vehicle Crashes and Factors that Contribute, “ American Journal of Preventative Medicine 35, (2008): 261-271. http://www.bocyf.org/ajpm_teen_driving_s261.pdf
The motor-vehicle crash risk of novice teen drivers is unacceptably high. This article examines the historical trends in fatal crash rates for male and female teen drivers as compared to adult drivers by both population and person-miles driven.

Turner, James, Jennifer Bauerle, and Adrienne Keller. “Alcohol-Related Vehicular Death Rates for College Students in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Journal of American College Health 7, 58 (2011): 323-328. (Available in the NCSC Library).
Based on statewide statistics that estimate alcohol contributes to 38.9% of traffic deaths, rate of alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths is 1.7 deaths per 100,000 college students in Virginia, which is 89% lower than leading national estimates. These findings suggest that past estimates of alcohol-related vehicular deaths among college students are overstated.

Voas, Robert, A. Scott Tippetts, Eduardo Romano, Deborah Fisher and Tara Kelley-Baker. “Alcohol Involvement in Fatal Crashes Under Three Crash Exposure Measures.” Traffic Injury Prevention 2, 8 (2007).

This study shows that the RAIR (relative accident involvement ratio) and CIR (crash incident ratio) are indeed closely related measures that, when used for comparisons against a reference group, yield exactly the same numerical estimates. Choosing one measure over another should depend on the questions to be answered.

Williams, Allan, Bethany West and Ruth Shults. “Fatal Crashes of 16- to 17-Year-Old Drivers Involving Alcohol, Nighttime Driving, and Passengers,” Traffic Injury Prevention 1, 13 (2012): 1-6. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15389588.2011.633235
During the 5-year period, 15 percent of the 8664 16- to 17-year-old drivers in fatal crashes had positive blood alcohol concentrations, most of which were 0.08 percent or greater. Drivers in alcohol-related crashes were more likely than those in non-alcohol-related crashes to be male, unbelted, in single vehicles, and speeding, and their crashes were more likely to occur on Saturday or Sunday, at night, and when passengers were present. Of the alcohol-related crashes, 88 percent took place at night or with passengers present or both, as did 67 percent of the non-alcohol-related crashes.
“Young Driver Study,” Center for Accident Research and Road Safety, (January 2012). http://eprints.qut.edu.au/48727/1/TRB_BuckleyFINAL.pdf
24% of fatal crashes with teenage drivers were the result of drunk driving. This article gives statistics regarding the casualties of drivers v. passengers in fatal accidents.
Zhang, Lening, William Wieczorek, John Welte, Craig Colder, and Thomas Nochajski. “Delinquency and Alcohol-Impaired Driving among Young Males: A longitudinal study.” Journal for Criminal Justice 4, 38 (2010): 439-445.

The present study assessed how the trajectory of delinquency affects the growth curve of alcohol-impaired driving using three-waves of data collected from the Buffalo Longitudinal Survey of Young Men (BLSYM). The data indicated that the growth rate of delinquency significantly and positively affects the growth rate of alcohol-impaired driving for the respondents who were sixteen at the first wave. The data, however, showed that alcohol-impaired driving had a significant increase across the waves for the eighteen year old cohort, but there was no significant variation in the rate across respondents. Finally, for the nineteen year old cohort there was no significant increase in alcohol-impaired driving across the waves, and also no significant variation of the growth rate of alcohol-impaired driving across the respondents. These findings indicated that interventions focused on reducing delinquency, alcohol and drug use by sixteen and seventeen year old male adolescents will also reduce their alcohol-impaired driving.