Drinking and Driving Statistics – Results of NHTSA Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers 2013-2014
The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is responsible for vehicle and roadway safety across the United States. NHTSA has conducted 4 studies since 1974 to estimate the prevalence of drinking and driving in the U.S. In 2007, NHTSA also began to estimate the number of drivers using drugs that can impair driving ability. The results of the most recent study in 2013-2014 are startling.
The most recent study estimates that more than 5% of weekend nighttime drivers have some level of impairment due to alcohol. The silver lining in this study is that the percentage of weekend nighttime drivers in 1974 to be impaired due to alcohol was 22.3%! The current study also estimates that the number of weekend nighttime drivers with a blood alcohol level of .08% or more (the legal limit in Florida is .08%) at 1.5% of all drivers. To put those numbers in perspective, if you’re stopped at a busy intersection with traffic coming from all directions, the drivers of 5 of the cars you see have been drinking, and the drivers of 1-2 of the cars you see have been drinking too much.
As you would expect, the number of drivers drinking on the weekend is higher than on weekdays. The estimated number of drivers who have been drinking on a weekday at night is 1.1%, with 0.4% estimated to have a blood alcohol of greater than .08%, the legal limit.
The numbers for illegal drug usage amongst weekend nighttime drivers is even higher. NHTSA estimates that 13%-15% of all drivers are under the influence of an illegal drug during this time period. And its not much better for weekday drivers. NHTSA estimates that 10.6%-12.1% of weekday drivers are under the influence of illegal drugs while driving during this time period.
The reason NHTSA conducts the studies is to highlight the dangers of drinking and driving, and drug use while driving. A person under the influence is at far greater risk to cause a serious car accident resulting in significant injuries than a driver not under the influence.
Florida courts allow car accident attorneys to amend a complaint to include a count for punitive damages when the person causing the accident is shown to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This allows a jury to award not just normal damages of lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering, but also to award an amount of money designed to punish the person causing the accident.