DUI is a problem for the US

DUI is a serious road safety problem for the US.
Highway & Network Management / April 5, 2022 1 minute 10 seconds Read
By MJ Woof
The US desperately needs to address its DUI problem, most particularly in Texas, California and Florida – image © courtesy of Mike Woof
The US has a poor record on road safety and needs to take tougher action to tackle driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. That is clear from data produced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), showing that an average of 28 people/day are killed on US roads due to DUI alcohol offences.

The NHTSA says that between 2010 and 2019, over 10,000 people were killed/year in the US in vehicle crashes in which DUI was a key factor.

On a more positive note, 2019 saw DUI deaths in the US drop to the lowest level since 1982, the year the NHTSA began collating data.

According to the NHTSA, DUI offences are a factor in around 33% of fatalities from US road crashes. These road deaths from DUI offences cost the US around US$44 billion/year according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition, the CDC points out that drivers committing DUI offences got behind the wheels of vehicles around 147 million times during 2018. And the NHTSA says that 32% of crashes that happened at night in 2017 involved a driver committing a DUI offence. The risk of crashes from DUI doubles during weekends, while male drivers were four times as likely to commit DUI offences than female drivers in 2017, according to the NHTSA.

Of the 50,930 drivers involved in fatal car crashes in 2019, the NHTSA estimates that around 19% were committing DUI offences. Some states fared worse for drink driving than others, with just 11% of drivers in fatal car crashes in Utah committing DUI offences in 2018, compared with 34% in Rhode Island.

The NHTSA data shows that 29% of road deaths were related to DUI offences in 2018.

The NHTSA data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop people from drinking and driving, despite there being less traffic on the roads. When the pandemic measures began being implemented between March 17th 2020 and September 30th 2020, around 27% of drivers in serious crashes were committing DUI offences. This compared with 21% between the previous six month period from September 10th 2019 to March 16th 2020.

Some states have a particularly poor record for DUI and data from the CDC shows Texas to be the worst, with 13,592 people having been killed in crashes involving DUI  between 2009 and 2018. California came second, with 9,288 road deaths related to DUI offences during the same period and Florida in third, with 7,573.

Of note according to the NHTSA is that the highest percentage of drunk drivers, 27%, are aged 21-24, with 25% aged 25-34. Meanwhile, 24% of drivers aged 15-20 killed in car crashes during 2019 were over the limit for alcohol.
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