Drunk driving (United States)

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Drunk driving is the act of operating and/or driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs to the degree that mental and motor skills are impaired. It is illegal in all jurisdictions within the U.S. The specific criminal offense is usually called driving under the influence [of alcohol and/or other drugs] (DUI), and in some states driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating while impaired (OWI), or operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI). Such laws may also apply to boating or piloting aircraft. Vehicles can include farm machinery and horse-drawn carriages.

In the United States the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 17,941 people died in 2006 in alcohol-related collisions, representing 40% of total traffic deaths in the US. NHTSA states 275,000 were injured in alcohol-related accidents in 2003.[1] The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that in 1996 local law enforcement agencies made 1,467,300 arrests nationwide for driving under the influence of alcohol, compared to 1.9 million such arrests during the peak year in 1983.[2] The arrest rate for alcohol-related offenses among American Indians was more than double that for the total population during 1996, and almost 4 in 10 American Indians held in local jails had been charged with a public order offense, most commonly driving while intoxicated.[3] In 1997 an estimated 513,200 DWI offenders were under correctional supervision, down from 593,000 in 1990 and up from 270,100 in 1986.[4]

NHTSA defines fatal collisions as "alcohol-related" if they believe the driver, a passenger, or non-motorist (such as a pedestrian or pedal cyclist) had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.01 or greater. NHTSA defines nonfatal collisions as alcohol-related if the accident report indicates evidence of alcohol present. NHTSA specifically notes that alcohol-related does not necessarily mean a driver or non occupant was tested for alcohol and that the term does not indicate a collision or fatality was caused by the presence of alcohol.[5] On average, about 60% of the BAC values are missing or unknown. To analyze what they believe is the complete data, statisticians simulate BAC information.[6] Drivers with a BAC of 0.10 are 6 to 12 times more likely to get into a fatal crash or injury than drivers with no alcohol.[7]

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