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Alcohol Intoxication (cont.)

Driving While Intoxicated: The Facts

FACT: In 2014, 9,967 people were killed in vehicle crashes involving alcohol in the United States.

FACT: Numerous studies demonstrate that almost all drivers are impaired at a level of 80 mg/dL with respect to critical driving skills such as braking, steering, and changing lanes. Impairment begins as low as 20 mg/dL and is common at 50 mg/dL. Most significant is that impairment of skills begins at a much lower level than required to exhibit obvious signs of being intoxicated. The "per se" level mandated by the federal government for drivers of commercial vehicles is a mere 40 mg/dL (0.04%). This applies to all 50 states.

In 1992, the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration recommended that all states lower their illegal per se blood alcohol concentration levels to 80 mg/dL (0.08%). Currently, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have per se laws making it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of 80 mg/dL or greater.

The vast majority of European countries have established lower blood alcohol concentration cutoffs than the United States.


Liver damage with alcoholic cirrhosis. Image from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
Liver damage with alcoholic cirrhosis. Image from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Click to view larger image.

Total adult (15+) per capita consumption, in litres of pure alcohol, 2005(a)

a Best estimates of 2005 using average recorded alcohol consumption 2003-2005 (minus tourist consumption) and unrecorded alcohol consumption 2005.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care


Australian Department of Health and Aged Care.

Cline DM, Tintinalli JE, Stapczynski S. Alcohols. In: Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 5th ed. McGraw-Hill;2000.

Integrated Medical Curriculum.

Merck and Company Staff. Drug dependence and addiction. In: Berkow R, Beers MH. Merck Manual of Medical Information-Home Edition. Merck Research Laboratories;1997.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Rosen P, Barkin RM, Danzl DF. Alcohol related diseases. In: Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 4th ed. Mosby-Year Book;1998. Global status report on alcohol and health.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/17/2016
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