US Drug Test Centers Blog/News

DUI Rates: Are They Going Down?

Posted: Feb 27 2017

By: Jane Schwab

DUI, short for driving under the influence, is a major problem in the United States. When you mention DUI, many only think of drunk driving, but DUI cases also involve driving while under the influence of other drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine. These other drugs account for an average of 18% of fatalities from road accidents. Most, however, are not taken in isolation but in conjunction with alcohol abuse.

Every year, thousands of arrests are made per state because of DUIs. For every 100,000 drivers arrested for traffic violations, 1,250 of these are arrested for DUI. Drunk driving accounts for approximately 1.5 million arrests made each year. DUI accounts for at least 18% of all fatal accidents occurring in the US. At least one death occurs every 48 minutes as a result of DUI. Annually, an average of 10,000 deaths occurs on the roads due to drunk driving accidents. So, are the rates of driving under the influence going down or are they on the rise?

Drunk Driving Arrests

Thousands of drivers are arrested across the US annually due to drunk driving. Since 1983, the number of drunk driving arrests has been on a steady decline. Around 1.9 million arrests were made in 1983 because of DUIs. This figure had dwindled to 1.4 million in 1996 and less than a million in 2003. A federal report carried out in 2011 shows that the decline in DUIs since 2006 has been steady standing at 30%.

Drunk Driving Accidents

These have also been on the decline. The number of DUI-related accidents decreased from 275,000 in 2003 to 17,941 in 2006. In 2009, the number of DUI accidents at night were 25% higher than those during the day. In the same year, reports stated that drunk driving accidents reduced from 31% during weekends to 16% during weekdays.

car totaled from drunk driving

Drunk Driving Fatalities

The definition of drunk driving is standard across all the states in the US and involves driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08%. All these states have zero tolerance laws for drivers under the age of 21 drinking and driving.

Between 2007 and 2008, drunk driving fatalities decreased by 7%, contributing to a decade-long continuous drop. The decrease in DUI related fatalities between 1982 and 2008 was placed at 44% according to data from NHTSA and the US Department of Transportation. From 2008 to 2009, the number of DUI-related fatalities decreased from 14% to 7.4%.

The NHTSA details that 10,265 people died in 2015 as a result of alcohol-impaired accidents in the US. This represented a 3.2% rise from the 9,943 fatalities reported in 2014. By gender, NHTSA data shows that women drivers made up 14% (1,761 drivers) involved in fatal car accidents in 2015 due to alcohol impairment. This is only 1% lower than those reported in 2006. Male drivers in 2015 were involved in 21% of alcohol-impaired fatal crashes; a drop of 24% from 2006.

Data from the NHTSA also reveals that between 1985 and 2014, the lowest number of crash fatalities were witnessed in 2011 representing 30% of all crash deaths that year. 1985 recorded the highest crash fatalities at 18,125 alcohol-impaired crash fatalities making up 41% of fatal car crashes that year. In 2014, there were 9,967 fatal car crashes due to alcohol impairment. This represents a 45% drop from 1985. The number of fatalities in 2015 increased to 10,265 from 9,967 in 2014, revealing a rise of almost 3% in 2015.

neon bar signSince 1982, drunk driving fatalities on the country's roads have decreased by 51% while total driving fatalities have declined by close to 20%. Since then, drunk driving fatalities by individuals under the age of 21 has decreased by 80%; from 5,215 in 1982 to 1,021 in 2015. Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities fell by 65% between 1982 and 2015 when official recording of such fatalities began. Between 1991 and 2015, drunk driving fatalities reduced by 49% nationally and by 68% for those below the age of 21.

Are DUI Rates Increasing or Decreasing?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of DUI arrests made in 2016 were approximately 1.1 million. Despite this figure, a decrease in DUI arrests has been reported over the years since 1982. Drunk driving related deaths per 100,000 have significantly reduced from 9.1 in 1982 to 3.1in 2014. This reveals a drop of approximately 66%. Additionally, between 2005 and 2014, only two states reported an increase (North Dakota at 3.6% and Utah at 43.9%) in DUI related deaths per 100,000. All the others reported a decline with the District of Columbia reporting the highest decline at 76.6%.

Ride-Sharing Apps and DUI Decrease

DUI accidents involving people under the age of 30 have reduced by 6.5% since the introduction of the UberX service in 2012. Uber has therefore credited itself with a decline in DUI related accidents since these statistics came out. A study conducted by Uber and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) reported that four out of five participants in the study said that, together with their friends, they were less likely to drive after drinking thanks to the availability of ride-sharing apps. Of respondents who had used ride-sharing apps, 57% said that if such apps were non-existent, they would probably end up drinking and driving.

two women holding beer

Uber, Sidecar, Lyft, and other such services have revolutionized the transportation sector. It is, however, worth noting that even with the availability and popularity of such apps, since 2009, the number of annual drunk driving fatalities have remained relatively steady. Despite this, the number of fatalities has shown a 50% decline since 1991. Law enforcement strategies and efforts are currently also at an all-time high.

There has been a general downward drop in drunk driving fatalities since 1985 attributed to public awareness of the consequences associated with drunk driving. Federal legislation such as the 1988 Drunk Driving Prevention Act also contributed to this awareness. This particular act increased the adoption of the ALR law which allows the seizing of a driver’s license if his or her BAC is over the accepted threshold.


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