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Alcohol and Car Crashes

41,059 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2007. The Institute publishes statistical facts about the motor vehicle safety picture in 2007, the most recent year for which fatality data are available. Fatality Facts are updated once a year, when the US Department of Transportation releases data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

The probability of a fatal crash rises significantly after 0.05 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and even more rapidly after 0.08 percent . Drivers with very high BACs (at or above 0.15 percent) have a very high risk of dying in a crash or getting severely injured.

All states have enacted a law defining impairment as driving with a BAC at or above 0.08 percent.

Drivers younger than 21 are more vulnerable than older drivers to the impairing effects of alcohol. At the same BAC, young drivers are far more likely to get into a fatal or nonfatal crash. In recent years, drivers younger than 21 killed in crashes are about half as likely as fatally injured drivers ages 21-30 to have a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher.

The information in this fact sheet is based on data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia with imputations for missing BACs provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation's multiple imputation model.4

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

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