The influence of alcohol can be felt long after a night of celebrating or partying. Its impact can be devastating for drinkers who get behind the wheel while intoxicated, as well as for others on the road and their surviving families and friends in the event of a fatal alcohol-related crash. 

In the week between Christmas and New Year’s alone, it’s estimated that 300 people nationwide will die in drunk driving crashes. Before you and your loved ones decide to celebrate with alcohol this year, know these sobering drunk driving statistics, and do your part to keep everyone safe. 

A daily problem

  • Every day an average of 800 people are injured in a drunk driving crash. 
  • Fatal crashes are four times higher in the hours between midnight and 3 a.m., when the highest number of drunk drivers is on the road.
  • The involvement of drunk driving in fatal crashes is four times higher at night than during the day (32% versus 9%). 
  • Alcohol-impaired driving crashes accounted for 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the United States in 2018.  
  • More than 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in 2016, but that’s less than one percent of the 111 million self-reported episodes of driving under the influence each year. 

The deadliest days

  • DUI arrests are at their highest during Thanksgiving weekend through the end of New Year’s. 
  • More than 800 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend from 2013 to 2017. 
  • 25% of people who died in a vehicle crash in the month of December 2016 were in drunk-driving crashes. 
  • July 4, Independence Day, is known by law enforcement as the deadliest day of the year. 
  • 31% of deadly drunk driving accidents occur on the weekend. 
  • The day with the highest number of drunk drivers on the road is Saturday.  

Teens and drunk driving

  • The summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the 100 deadliest days for teens on highways.
  • One in 10 teens in high school drinks and drives. 
  • Drivers ages 16 to 20 are 17 times more likely to die in a crash when they have a blood alcohol concentration of .08% than when they haven’t been drinking. 
  • An estimated 5.8% of teens ages 16 to 17 have reported driving under the influence of alcohol. 
  • An estimated 15.1% of 18- to 20-year-olds have reported driving under the influence of alcohol. 
  • About a quarter of vehicle crashes with teens involve an underage driver who has been drinking. 
  • One in five teen drivers who were involved in fatal crashes in 2010 had been drinking, and 81% of these had a blood alcohol concentration higher than the legal limit for adults (.08%). 

How alcohol affects your driving

  • At .02 blood alcohol concentration (BAC), you’ll experience a decline in visual functions and a decline in the ability to multitask. 
  • At .05 BAC, you’ll have reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, problems steering and limited response time. 
  • At .08 BAC, you’ll have loss of concentration, short-term memory, speed control, information processing abilities, and impaired perception. 
  • At .10 BAC, you’ll have reduced ability to brake properly and to maintain your position in your lane.
  • At .15 BAC, you’ll be substantially impaired in the ability to control your vehicle, attend to driving tasks, and in the information processing abilities you need to drive. 

Positive trends

  • Drunk driving fatalities nationwide have declined by 50% since 1982 (when record keeping of drunk driving fatalities began).
  • The percentage of teens in high school who drink and drive has decreased by 54% since 1991. 
  • Between 1991 and 2018, the rate of drunk driving fatalities decreased 71% among those under 21. 

Together, all of these stats tell an important story about the state of drinking and driving in the United States. Although overall fatality numbers are decreasing due to the many efforts of parents, educators, and agencies, there is still much work to be done. Do your part to save lives: Don’t ever drive after you’ve been drinking, and don’t allow others to drink and drive. Designate a driver or use a ride-sharing service or taxi, so you can celebrate the holidays responsibly and safely. 

Stay safe on the roads with the driving skills you need to drive defensively. Be sure to check out our Alive@25 class, which helps educate teen and young adult drivers beyond the basics needed to acquire their driver license.