How Many Deaths Result From Drunk Driving Every Year?

While the numbers have improved over the years, there are still a staggering number of deaths as a result of drunk driving each year, and law enforcement still has great trouble stopping intoxicated motorists before they become a threat to others. Unfortunately, the problem is particularly severe in Texas, which leads the nation in fatalities resulting from intoxicated motorists, and by a significant margin. In fact, in 2011, nearly half of all traffic fatalities in Texas involved alcohol, making it the single greatest cause of fatal crashes in the state. And yet, it’s obviously something that can be prevented, as long as people exercise responsibility.


In 2011, close to 34,000 people were killed in accidents where the driver or a pedestrian had alcohol in their system. While motorists are the focus of alcohol safety initiatives, as they should be, impaired pedestrians represent a danger to themselves and others as well. They cannot accurately judge the speed of oncoming traffic, and often step into traffic without warning.

Texas accounted for around 1,450 of these fatalities, leading the second most dangerous state (California) by more than 500 deaths. Even with zero tolerance laws in place, Texas is uniquely plagued by impaired motorists. Houston, for a long time, was consistently at the top or near the top in terms of serious alcohol-related accidents every year.

Since 2011, the number of fatal accidents has decreased precipitously, due to improved education and tougher sentencing for repeat offenders. In 2013, the number of alcohol-related fatalities dropped to just over 10,000, though that still means 28 people are killed every day by impaired motorists. Think about this – two out of every three motorists will eventually be involved in a wreck where someone is impaired by alcohol. It’s clear that even with improved traffic safety, the problem isn’t going away anytime soon.

That’s largely because impaired motorists often make it a habit of drinking before getting behind the wheel, and often do so without getting caught. In 2013, more than 29 million people in the U.S. admitted to drinking before operating a motor vehicle, and most were repeat offenders. And calling some of these people “repeat offenders” is underselling it. On average, an intoxicated motorist will get away with the crime 80 times before they are arrested for the first time. This means many deaths resulting from drunk driving are caused by people who had a severe habitual problem and regularly put others at risk.

Even though the risks of drinking before operating a vehicle are well known at this point, people still must understand the consequences of a simple, dangerous decision. Getting behind the wheel while impaired can end lives and leave people permanently affected by losing loved ones. Those who put others at risk are always – always – found negligent for their actions, and will be financially and morally responsible for the harm they cause to others in this way. So, don’t do it. Get a designated driver, or call a cab, and leave the keys with a trusted friend. That’s a decision that may save a life.