In an average year, 30 million Americans drive drunk, and 10 million Americans drive impaired by illicit drugs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every day in the US, approximately 29 people, or one person every 50 minutes, die in motor vehicle crashes involving a substance-impaired driver.
As alcohol levels rise in a person’s system, the negative effects on the central nervous system increase. Alcohol is absorbed directly through the walls of the stomach and small intestine. Then it passes into the bloodstream where it accumulates until it is metabolized by the liver. A person’s alcohol level is measured by the weight of the alcohol in a certain volume of blood. This is called Blood Alcohol Concentration, or BAC. At a BAC of .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter (g/dL) of blood, crash risk increases exponentially. Because of this risk, it’s illegal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, except in Utah where the BAC limit is .05.
However, even a small amount of alcohol can affect driving ability. In 2019, there were 1,775 people killed in alcohol-related crashes where a driver had a BAC of .01 to .07 g/dL.