Safety  1N Num3ersThe ProblemThe FactsWhat you can do

Driving while impaired (DWI) is a serious offense that carries serious penalties and costs. Drivers arrested for DWI face jail time, heavy fines, loss of their driver licenses, and higher insurance rates for many years.

You may pay to have your car towed and subsequent storage fees. Your license will likely be suspended, which may make getting to your job or school difficult. You may have to complete and pay for alcohol evaluation, education, and treatment programs, and perform community service. If a judge orders an alcohol ignition interlock system, you may pay for the device plus a monthly fee. If you hire a lawyer, you will have those costs, too. Some States have higher fines for young drivers and escalating penalties for multiple convictions. A DWI conviction will follow you for many years and may affect school and job applications.

Total DWI costs range from $5,000 to $20,000 for a first offense — $10,000 is the estimated average across the country. If you cause a crash, injury, or death, the costs may be significantly higher. Your State's DMV website will have the penalties for your State.

What data tells us

  • America's 212 million licensed drivers crashed over 5.3 million times, injured 2.2 million people and killed 32,367 people in 2011.
  • Each day, 27 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes, one every hour (Overview, Traffic Safety Facts, 2011 data, Download Report).
  • Two-thirds (66%) of the 9,878 people who died in drunk driving crashes in 2011 were drivers or motorcyclists with BACs of .08 or higher.
  • The overall number of fatalities in alcohol-impaired crashes went down in 2011 but the number of alcohol-impaired motorcycle drivers in fatal crashes went up by 9%, the only driver class to rise. Motorcycles also had the highest percentage (29%) of alcohol-impaired drivers of all vehicle types (24% of passenger car drivers were alcohol-impaired, 21% of light-truck drivers, 1% of large-truck drivers).
  • About 1 in 6 (16%) of those killed in impaired-driving crashes were passengers riding with drivers whose BACs were .08 or higher; almost 2 in 10 either were riding in other vehicles (11%) or were pedestrians or bicyclists (7%) when they died (Alcohol-Impaired Driving, Traffic Safety Facts, 2011 data, Download Report).
  • Half (50%) of the 181 children under 14 who were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes were riding with drunk drivers (Children, Traffic Safety Facts, 2011 data, Download Report).
  • According to NHTSA's National Roadside Survey, most of the designated drivers measured zero BAC, but 1 in 6 (16%) were alcohol positive and 2 percent were above the illegal limit. Weekends and nights are the most prevalent times for impaired driving (Results of the 2007 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, Download Report).

What people tell us

  • According to NHTSA's most recent national telephone survey about drinking and driving (National Survey of Drinking and Driving Attitudes and Behaviors, Download Report), most drivers say they take action to avoid driving impaired. Half (53%) of drinking drivers who felt they had too much to drink avoided driving at least once in the past year. They said they used a designated driver, rode with another person, called a cab, or slept over.
  • Almost 1 in 12 (8%) of the population, or 17.2 million drivers, said they rode with a driver they thought may have consumed too much alcohol to drive safely in the past year. Young males (24%) were 3 times more likely to do this.
  • Among those who hosted a social event that served alcohol in the past year, 3 in 4 (72%) said they took action to prevent guests from drinking too much or driving after drinking.
  • Among those who were the designated drivers, however, more than 1 in 8 (12%) said they made the decision to be the designated driver after the drinking had begun.

How to keep the pressure on

NHTSA's high-visibility enforcement model keeps the pressure on drivers and motorcyclists to choose another way home if they have had too much alcohol to drive or ride safely. It works by increasing the risk of detection and arrest for those who choose to drive over the illegal limit (Increasing Impaired-Driving Enforcement Visibility: Six Case Studies,
Download Report
, and Drunk Driving National Enforcement Crackdown Products for Enforcement Action Kit [PEAK], LaborDay2013/PEAK).