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There is no doubt drunk driving is a serious problem, but the latest available statistics on drunk driving from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) continue to show progress in the fight against drunk driving. 

In 2011, 9,878 people were killed in a drunk driving crash accounting for 31 percent of the total motor vehicle fatalities on our nation’s roadways.  A drunk driving fatality is defined as fatal motor vehicle crash that involves at least one driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.  With an average of one drunk driving fatality every 53 minutes, this is still too many, but those in traffic safety who have been working to make our nation’s roadways safer are making a difference. 

The annual number of drunk driving fatalities has been reduced by more than half since record keeping began – down 53% from 21,113 fatalities in 1982.

We have created a drunk driving state facts section summarizing the most relevant statistics about drunk driving and underage drinking.  These state facts use the most currently available data from the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) of NHTSA, which compiles crash data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), population data from the US Census Bureau of the US Department of Commerce, arrest data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual report on Crime in the United States, and underage drinking prevalence rates from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The state profiles are not intended for comparison between states as there are many factors that vary from state to state. These include population density, definition of laws related to drunk driving, underage drinking, and alcohol possession, as well as the level of quality in reporting from each state.  For example, California accounts for approximately 12% of the total US population so it is not surprising the number of fatalities or arrests would be higher in comparison to a smaller state such as Rhode Island.  Rhode Island had 2.4 drunk driving fatalities per 100,000 population and California had 2.1 last year, yet to look at just at the number of fatalities you would think the problem is much greater in California with 774 drunk driving fatalities compared with 25 in Rhode Island.

The state fact sheets and our annual State of Drunk Driving Fatalities in America report are designed as a resource for all those in the community working to fight drunk driving and underage drinking including beverage alcohol retailers, law enforcement, judges public officials, educators, insurers, health care professionals, government agencies and advocacy organizations.  We welcome your feedback and hope you will follow us on social media to stay informed about the latest available research and statistics on drunk driving and underage drinking.