Impaired Driving

Incidence of Impaired Driving

For one of every 130 miles driven in Washington in 1996, a person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) >.08 sat behind the wheel. Police in Washington reported 12,226 crashes involving a driver or pedestrian with a BAC of .01 or more. Formulas developed by NHTSA were used to estimate the number of alcohol-related crashes where alcohol involvement was not reported by the police. An estimated total of 69,440 crashes in Washington involved alcohol which killed 331 and injured an estimated 25,700 people.

Impaired Driving by Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

In 1996, Washington drivers with:

  • BACs of .10 and above were involved in an estimated 66,100 crashes that killed 286 and injured 22,500
  • BACs between .08-.09 were involved in an estimated 1,140 crashes that killed 13 and injured 1,000
  • Positive BACs below .08 were involved in an estimated 2,200 crashes that killed 32 and injured 2,200


Alcohol is a factor in 29% of Washington’s crash costs. Alcohol-related crashes in Washington cost the public an estimated $3.4 billion in 1996, including $1.7 billion in monetary costs and almost $1.7 billion in quality of life losses. (For definitions of the cost categories, see the definitions fact sheet.) Alcohol-related crashes are deadlier and more serious than other crashes. People other than the drinking driver paid $2.2 billion of the alcohol-related crash bill.

Costs per Alcohol-Related Injury

The average alcohol-related fatality in Washington costs $3.7 million:

  • $1.2 million in monetary costs
  • $2.5 million in quality of life losses

The estimated cost per injured survivor of an alcohol-related crash averaged 110,000:

  • $56,000 in monetary costs
  • $54,000 in quality of life losses

Costs per Mile Driven

Crash costs in Washington averaged:

  • $9.30 per mile driven at BACs of .10 and above
  • $4.10 per mile driven at BACs between .08-.09
  • $0.20 per mile driven at BACs of .00

Costs per Drink

The societal costs of alcohol-related crashes in Washington averaged $1.30 per drink consumed. People other than the drinking driver paid $.90 per drink.

Impact on Auto Insurance Rates

Alcohol-related crashes accounted for an estimated 21% of Washington’s auto insurance payments. Reducing alcohol-related crashes by 10% would save $63 million in claims payments and loss adjustment expenses.

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