Alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities rose 14% from 2019 to 2020, accounting for 30% of 2020 overall fatalities, according to new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Some 11,654 people lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes — the highest number linked to alcohol use since 2008. Ironically, while alcohol-related fatalities spiked in 2020, vehicle miles traveled decreased by 11% due in large part to the pandemic.
NHTSA’s report also identifies the types of vehicles involved in drunk driving crashes. Drivers of nearly all vehicle types — cars, SUVs, pickups, motorcycles, and large trucks — saw increases in the number of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes from 2019 to 2020. The one exception was van drivers, where alcohol-impaired fatal crashes decreased 13%.
Passenger car drivers had the largest number increase — 703 — in alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes from 2019 to 2020. SUV drivers had the second largest number increase with 176.
The report also points out that in 2020 45% of traffic deaths involved at least one of three hazardous behaviors: impaired driving, speeding, or not wearing a seat belt. What’s more, there were 1,638 passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes who were simultaneously unrestrained, alcohol-impaired, and speeding — a 21% increase from 1,357 in 2019.