When revealed to the general public, the statistics on drunk driving never fail to elicit surprise and dismay. The numbers tell a story of death, mayhem and irresponsible behavior that undercuts the belief our country has gotten a handle on its drunk driving problem. Since 1980 the number of people dying each year in traffic accidents attributable to drunk driving has been cut in half, and that is a definite sign of progress. However, as the current statistics on drunk driving illustrate, that is more a testament to how bad things used to be than to how good they are now.
Drinking and Driving by the Numbers
Drinking and driving don’t mix, but as these shocking statistics on drunk driving reveal, the American public has been slow to catch onto this reality. Over the course of a lifetime, two out of three U.S. residents will be involved in at least one traffic accident involving a drunk driver. You never know what intoxicated drivers are going to do, and that unpredictability is what makes them such a grave threat. If you travel the highways and byways of America, you’re likely to run into one of them sooner or later — or more correctly, one of them will likely run into you. In a 2013 survey, 28.7 million people in the United States admitted they’d driven under the influence of alcohol at some point in their lives. Most people underestimate the amount of alcohol they consume and the effect it has on them, so the real number could be double. But even if it were only 28.7 million, that would still represent about one in eight Americans from among those old enough to drive. If all 28.7 million were to live close to each other they would form the second largest state in the Union. The average drunk driver will operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol 80 times before finally getting arrested and charged with their first DWI. It is extremely difficult for law enforcement to apprehend drunk drivers. Catching them isn’t quite the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack, but it is close. This shows just how common driving while intoxicated is in the United States. In 2015, 10,265 Americans died in motor vehicle crashes involving drunk drivers, while another 290,000 were injured in such accidents. The death rate is appalling, but the serious non-lethal trauma that results from drunk driving often gets overlooked. Many of these 290,000 auto accident victims will be affected for life by their injuries, while others may spend several pain-filled months in the hospital recovering — all because someone else decided to get behind the wheel after drinking to excess. Each year there are an estimated 121 million incidents of drunk driving in the United States. This means 300,000 intoxicated people are out and about on America’s roadways every single day. With this much intoxicated driving going on, no man, woman or child who travels on our country’s roads and highways is ever completely safe. If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol abuse, urge them to seek professional treatment before endangering the lives of others. Sources National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Traffic Safety Facts, 2014: Alcohol-Impaired Driving https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812231 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Summary of National Findings https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHresultsPDFWHTML2013/Web/NSDUHresults2013.pdf National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes (Revised May 2015) https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Alcohol-Impaired Driving among Adults, United States, 2012 https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6430a2.htm