Data Shows an Increase in Drunk Driving Deaths and More Alcohol Consumed

Americans are drinking more than they did before the pandemic, and more of them are dying in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes, according to a new report by the drivers education platform Zuboti.

The report says 13,386 deaths were attributed to drunk driving in 2021, accounting for 31% of all road fatalities, according to the most recent data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The United States hasn’t seen that many alcohol-related traffic deaths since 2005 and that large of a percentage of fatalities attributed to alcohol since 2013.

“Shockingly, the number of drunk driving deaths has surged by 1,732 (14.8%) compared to 2020, dealing a severe blow to safety advocates and regulators who strive to make our roads safer,” the report says.

Zuboti said data from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that US alcohol beverage sales increased in the past years, to 2.51 gallons of alcohol consumed in 2021 from 2.44 gallons in 2020, a 2.9% increase. That was a 5.5% increase from 2019, when an average of 2.38 gallons of alcohol were consumed.

Total alcohol consumption has increased in most years since the early 1990s, but remains below peak in 1983 when the national average consumed reached 2.7 gallons, NIAAA data shows. The spike from 2019 to 2021 was the steepest increase in alcohol consumption since 1969.

The report said the data suggests the COVID-19 pandemic played a role.

“For some individuals facing job losses or financial difficulties, alcohol might have become a means of temporary escape or relief, even leading to excessive drinking habits and risky behaviors like drinking and driving,” the report says.

Zuboti built a DUI Severity Score for each state using the number of driving under the influence arrests per 100,000 drivers and the number of alcohol-related road fatalities per 100,000 drivers. Montana’s DUI Severity Score was No. 1, at 83.6, followed by South Dakota (81.2), Wyoming (75.1) North Dakota (72.2) and Texas (65.6).

On the other end of the spectrum, the District of Columbia had the lowest severity score of 20.9. Delaware, Massachusetts, Alabama and New York all scored below 34, the report says.

Men were three times as likely to be involved in a fatal drunk driving accident than women. The report says 7,792 impaired male drivers lost their lives in drunk driving crashes in 2021, compared to 1,860 impaired female drivers.