Alcohol-Impaired Driving Deaths
Percentage of driving deaths with alcohol involvement. The 2023 County Health Rankings used data from 2016-2020 for this measure.
Alcohol-Impaired Driving Deaths directly measures the relationship between alcohol and motor vehicle crash deaths. Alcohol is a substance that reduces the function of the brain, impairing thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination, which are essential to operating a vehicle safely.1 In 2018, approximately 10,500 Americans were killed in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes.2 The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion. Drivers between the ages of 21 and 24 cause 27% of all alcohol-impaired deaths.2
Data and methods
Fatality Analysis Reporting System
FARS is a census of fatal motor vehicle crashes with a set of data files documenting all qualifying fatalities that occurred within the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico since 1975. To qualify as a FARS case, the crash had to involve a motor vehicle traveling on a trafficway customarily open to the public, and must have resulted in the death of a motorist or a non-motorist within 30 days of the crash.
Key Measure Methods
Alcohol-Impaired Driving Deaths is a percentage
Alcohol-Impaired Driving Deaths is the percentage of motor vehicle crash deaths with alcohol involvement.
Deaths are counted in the county of occurrence
Alcohol-Impaired Driving Deaths are reported for the county of occurrence. This is because it is more likely that the drinking behavior that led to the driving crash happened where the accident occurred rather than in the county where the people involved in the crash reside.
This measure considers the percentage of crash deaths involving alcohol, not the number of total crashes or the number of total crashes involving alcohol. Another limitation of this measure is that not all fatal motor vehicle traffic accidents have a valid blood alcohol test, so these data are likely an undercount of actual alcohol involvement. A final limitation is that even though alcohol is involved in all cases of alcohol-impaired driving, there can be a large difference in the degree to which it was responsible for the crash (e.g. someone with a 0.01 BAC vs. 0.35 BAC).
The numerator is the total number of alcohol-impaired motor vehicle crash deaths in the 5-year period. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines a fatal crash as alcohol-related or alcohol-involved if either a driver or a non-motorist (usually a pedestrian or bicyclist) had a measurable or estimated blood alcohol concentration of 0.01 grams per deciliter or above.
The denominator is the total number of motor vehicle crash deaths in the 5-year period.
Can This Measure Be Used to Track Progress
This measure can be used to measure progress with some caveats. It is important to note that the estimate provided in the County Health Rankings is a 5-year average. However, in most counties, it is relatively simple to obtain single-year estimates from the resource included below. In addition, Alcohol-Impaired Driving Deaths is a percentage whereas using a rate per population or the total number of crashes might be better to measure progress.
Finding More Data
Disaggregation means breaking data down into smaller, meaningful subgroups. Disaggregated data are often broken down by characteristics of people or where they live. Disaggregated data can reveal inequalities that are otherwise hidden. These data can be disaggregated by:
- Subcounty Area
We recommend starting with the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which contains information on crashes by race, ethnicity, age, gender, and more for cities, counties, states, and the nation. In addition, most states produce traffic statistics called “Crash Facts”. You can find links to these reports in State-Specific Data Sources.
1 Drunk Driving. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation. nhtsa.gov. https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving. Accessed: December 3, 2019.
2 Alcohol-impaired driving: 2018 data (Traffic Safety Facts. Report No. DOT HS 812 864). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. nhtsa.dot.gov https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812864. Published: December 2019. Accessed: January 3, 2020.