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Most Drunk Driving Deaths Caused By Drivers With Twice Legal BAC Limit


Car accident

Car accident

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New research released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that in 2010, more than two-thirds of the 10,228 drunk driving deaths (7,145 or 70 percent) involved drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or higher.

The report, “Prevalence of High BAC in Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatal Crashes,” further indicates that the most frequently recorded BAC among all drinking drivers in 2010 fatal crashes was .18, more than twice the legal limit in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. On average, there was one alcohol-related death every 51 minutes.

Other report findings

  • The age group with the highest percentage of drivers with BACs of .08 was 21 to 24 years old.
  • Alcohol impairment rate among drivers in fatal crashes in 2010 was four times higher at night than during the day.
  • A higher percentage of fatal crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers occurred on weekends (31 percent), compared to 16 percent during the week.
  • Drivers with .08 BAC or higher involved in fatal crashes were four times more likely to have prior DWI (driving while impaired) convictions than drivers with no alcohol.

Police officers run identity checks at a sobriety checkpoint in Escondido, CA

Police officers run identity checks at a sobriety checkpoint in Escondido, CA

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The NHTSA released the report during a press conference in Washington, D.C. to launch the annual nationwide crackdown on drunk driving, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.” Beginning August 17 and lasting through the Labor Day holiday weekend more than 10,000 police departments and law enforcement agencies across the country will support the campaign.

In July, Congress approved a $20 million incentive program that will award states extra money if they require drivers convicted of drunk driving to have ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles.

Breathalyzer ignition interlock

Breathalyzer ignition interlock

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Today, 17 states have laws mandating such devices for first-time DUI (driving under the influence) offenders who want to retain driving privileges. Missouri and Virginia are the two most recent states to adopt ignition interlock laws. California has a pilot project mandating ignition interlocks for all drunken driving convictions in the counties of Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said he wants all 50 states to require ignition interlock devices.

View the new “Ignition Interlock Guidelines for DWI Courts” here (PDF). The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has a breakdown of the drunk driving laws by state here.  

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