New research released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that in 2010, more than two-thirds of the 10,228 drunk driving deaths (7,145 or 70 percent) involved drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or higher.

The report, “Prevalence of High BAC in Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatal Crashes,” further indicates that the most frequently recorded BAC among all drinking drivers in 2010 fatal crashes was .18, more than twice the legal limit in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. On average, there was one alcohol-related death every 51 minutes.

Other report findings

The NHTSA released the report during a press conference in Washington, D.C. to launch the annual nationwide crackdown on drunk driving, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.” Beginning August 17 and lasting through the Labor Day holiday weekend more than 10,000 police departments and law enforcement agencies across the country will support the campaign.

In July, Congress approved a $20 million incentive program that will award states extra money if they require drivers convicted of drunk driving to have ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles.

Today, 17 states have laws mandating such devices for first-time DUI (driving under the influence) offenders who want to retain driving privileges. Missouri and Virginia are the two most recent states to adopt ignition interlock laws. California has a pilot project mandating ignition interlocks for all drunken driving convictions in the counties of Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said he wants all 50 states to require ignition interlock devices.

View the new “Ignition Interlock Guidelines for DWI Courts” here (PDF). The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has a breakdown of the drunk driving laws by state here.  

(c) 2012, High Gear Media.