What Is Drunk Driving?

Driving under the influence (DUI) refers to being under the influence of any substance (including alcohol) and then operating a motor vehicle. Often called “drunk driving” interchangeably, it refers to operating any vehicle (including bicycles, motorcycles, golf carts, etc.) while impaired.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 11,654 Americans were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2020; deaths like these were 30% of all total motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the US.

1.5 million people are arrested each year for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Impaired driving continues to be a serious safety and public health issue worldwide.

Blood Alcohol Content

It is illegal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 or higher. BAC is the percentage of alcohol in the bloodstream. If someone has a BAC at or above the legal limit, they are legally considered impaired. However, it’s important to note that critical thinking and fine motor skills begin to drop as soon as a person has taken their first sip of alcohol.

If you know someone struggling with alcohol abuse, there is help available.

Drunk Driving Statistics


year olds

Young people between the ages of 21 to 25 years old are the most likely to drive drunk.


drunk drivers

Repeat offenders comprise almost one-third of all convicted drunk drivers.



Alcohol-related accidents cost taxpayers $100 billion.

Consequences Of Driving Drunk

If someone drives drunk and survives a crash that injures or kills other people, they must live with the consequences. That emotional burden can be worse than any bodily harm; however, the physical perils of drunk driving are immense too. Impaired driving can cause accidents that lead to paralysis, disfigurement, brain damage, and death.

Drunk driving is also a crime. Drunk drivers often pay significant fines, lose their license, and face higher insurance costs. Common punishments for conviction of a drunken driving-related offense can include:

  • Driver’s license suspension/revocation
  • Imprisonment
  • Vehicle impoundment
  • Vehicle license plate confiscation
  • Ignition interlock device (IID) restrictions
  • Alcohol abuse evaluations
  • Court-ordered rehab
  • Monitored sobriety

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Drunk Driving Dangers

Alcohol’s sedating effects impair a driver’s decision-making skills and coordination. An impaired driver lacks the ability to quickly and decisively avoid an accident or even perform routine driving maneuvers. Drunk drivers endanger themselves and everyone on the road, increasing the risk of automobile crashes and deaths.

Every day, about 32 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 45 minutes.

- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Drunk driving is as prevalent as it is lethal. According to the US Department of Transportation, nearly 4 million American adults committed an estimated 112 million drunk-driving incidents in 2010 alone. Despite the high volume of drunk driving episodes, only a small percentage of impaired drivers are arrested. There are almost 300,000 drunk driving incidents in America each day. Arrests are made in only 0.013% of these cases.

Drunk Driving And Addiction Treatment

Drunk driving may signify an alcohol addiction. Continuing to drink in spite of a DUI conviction or time in jail is often a telltale sign of a larger struggle.

If you or someone you care about is battling an alcohol addiction, know that help is available. Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are available across the country. Contact a treatment provider to find available treatment options.