Alcohol is a major factor in traffic accidents. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there was an alcohol-impaired traffic fatality every 48 minutes in 2017.
Alcohol-impaired crashes are those that involve at least one driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter or above, the legal definition of impaired driving. According to NHTSA 10,874 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2017. Alcohol-impaired crash fatalities accounted for 29 percent of all crash fatalities.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates 1,017,808 drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2016. The arrest rate works out to one arrest for about every 215 licensed drivers in the United States.
The definition of alcohol-impaired driving was consistent throughout the United States until December 2018. All states and the District of Columbia except Utah define impairment as driving with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) at or above 0.08 grams per deciliter. In Utah, the BAC limit was lowered to 0.05 in December 2018. In addition, they all have zero tolerance laws prohibiting drivers under the age of 21 from drinking and driving. Generally the BAC in these cases is 0.02 grams per deciliter.
Campaigns against alcohol-impaired driving especially target drivers under the age of 21, repeat offenders and 21-to 34-year-olds, the age group that is responsible for more alcohol-related fatal crashes than any other. Young drivers are those least responsive to arguments against impaired driving, according to NHTSA.
To make sellers and servers of liquor more careful about to whom and how they serve drinks, 42 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws or have case law holding commercial liquor servers legally liable for the damage, injuries and deaths an alcohol-impaired driver causes. Thirty-nine states have enacted laws or have case law that permit social hosts who serve liquor to people who subsequently are involved in crashes to be held liable for any injury or death.
(As of September 2019)