A study performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimated the number of crash deaths specifically attributable to alcohol-impaired driving, with a focus on various strategies for introducing vehicle-based solutions. The study sought to answer how many lives could be saved in the near term, and also how long it would take to essentially eliminate alcohol-impaired driving together if alcohol detection systems become standard in all new vehicles.
The study analyzed crash data in which alcohol was detected in the blood of at least one involved driver to assess the impact that in-vehicle alcohol detection systems could have to block drivers. Using Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data from 2015–2018, fatal crashes were classified by the highest driver blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and the corresponding age category of that driver. The analysis was based on a number of scenarios, including those with: any detected alcohol in their blood; BAC above 0.08 g/dL (the legal limit in most states); and alcohol-impaired driving convictions. Based on the estimates of relative risk (RR) for a given driver group, eliminating alcohol in the driver’s blood should lower risk by the attributable proportion: 1 – 1 / RR. Multiplying this quantity by the number of deaths for the driver group yielded the estimated number of lives potentially saved if the BACs were reduced to zero.
- Vehicle-based systems that restrict drivers with any BAC could prevent nearly 12,000 deaths per year, while systems that restrict BAC to less than 0.08 g/dL could prevent more than 9,000 deaths.
- Within 3 years of a mandate for vehicle-based alcohol detection systems in all new vehicles, it is expected that the annual lives saved would be between 1,000 and 1,300. Within 6 years, it would be between 2,000 and 2,600 lives saved per year, and within 12 years, it would be between 4,600 and 5,900 lives saved per year.
- A requirement for alcohol-detection system installation only for those convicted of alcohol-impaired driving offenses could save between 800 and 1,000 lives per year; and a system applied only to fleet vehicles could save between 300 and 500 lives per year.