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Traffic Tech #234: State Alcohol Cost Fact Sheets Document The Costs Of Impaired Driving For Each State

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Number 234                                                             October 2000

U.S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590


When States are planning effective prevention strategies for impaired driving, understanding how their state's circumstances compare to the national average helps define the scope and nature of the problems. Information about the number and cost of impaired driving incidents and the cost saving from prevention strategies has not always been available or accessible in an easy-to-use format.

The National Public Services Research Institute developed state-specific data on impaired driving for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The series of State Cost Fact Sheets is available only on NHTSA's website. These fact sheets show the cost of impaired driving for a particular state and estimate the savings a state could realize if it implemented certain impaired driving countermeasures. There is also a U.S. Cost Fact Sheet that lists the national costs.

A Methods and Definitions Fact Sheet accompanies the individual state fact sheets. It describes how the costs and savings estimates were calculated and gives the references citations. The Methods pages should always accompany the U.S. and state fact sheets.

The State Cost Fact Sheet User's Guide goes into more detail about state-level estimates and describes how they can be used to educate the public about the costs of impaired driving. The cost estimates give an index of the magnitude of the impaired driving problem, and help establish how high a priority impaired driving should be compared to the overall costs of other types of problems. They identify types of alcohol-related crashes that merit immediate attention and project net savings from implementing various impaired driving countermeasures.


These are available only on NHTSA's website, http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/traffic_tech/2000/www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/alcohol/facts.htmMost public libraries can provide Internet access.

Sample of the U.S. Fact Sheet

Incidence of Impaired Driving

For one of every 140 miles driven in the United States in 1998, a driver whose BAC exceeded the legal limit (BAC .10) sat behind the wheel. Police in the United States report 438,000 crashes involving a driver or pedestrian with a positive blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Formulas developed by NHTSA were used to estimate the number of alcohol- related crashes where alcohol involvement is not reported by the police. An estimated total of 1,049,900 crashes in the United States involved alcohol. These crashes killed 15,935 people and injured an estimated 821,000 more. Of the nonfatal injuries, 630,000 were police-reported and only these are detailed in the state cost fact sheets.

Impaired Driving by Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

In 1998, the United States drivers with:


Alcohol is a factor in 35% of the United States crashes. Alcohol-related crashes in the United States cost the public more than $110 billion in 1998, including more than $40 billion in monetary costs and almost $70 billion in quality of life losses. Alcohol-related crashes are deadlier and more serious than other crashes. People other than the drinking driver paid $51 billion of the alcohol-related crash bill.

Costs Per Alcohol-Related Injury

The average alcohol-related fatality in the United States cost $3.2 million: $1.2 million in monetary costs and $2 million in quality of life losses. The estimated cost per injured survivor of an alcohol-related crash averaged $79,000: $36,000 in monetary costs and $43,000 in quality of life losses.

Costs Per Mile Driven

Crash costs in the United States averaged:

Costs Per Drink

The societal costs of alcohol-related crashes in the United States averaged $0.80 per drink consumed. People other than the drinking driver paid $0.40 per drink.

Impact on Auto Insurance Rates

Alcohol-related crashes accounted for an estimated 16% of the $127 billion in U.S. auto insurance payments. Reducing alcohol-related crashes by 10% would save $3 billion in claims payments and loss adjustment expenses.

Prevention Savings

The United States already has many important impaired driving laws. However, a number of additional strategies can be used to mitigate the harm from impaired driving.

law are the large majority of the $0.20 cost per licensed driver.

U.S. Department
of Transportation
National Highway
Traffic Safety
400 Seventh Street, S.W. NTS-31
Washington, DC 20590

Traffic Tech is a publication to disseminate information about traffic safety programs, including evaluations, innovative programs, and new publications. Feel free to copy it as you wish. If you would like to receive a copy contact:
Linda Cosgrove, Ph.D., Editor, Evaluation Staff
Traffic Safety Programs
(202) 366-2759, fax (202) 366-7096
E-mail: lcosgrove@nhtsa.dot.gov

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