No. It is true that people with prior convictions for driving while impaired by alcohol are overrepresented among drivers in fatal crashes. According to a federal study, drivers convicted of alcohol-impaired driving during the past 3 years are at least 1.8 times as likely to be in fatal crashes as drivers with no prior convictions during the same time period and are at least 4 times as likely to be in fatal crashes in which drivers have high BACs (0.10 percent or higher).13 However, in 2007 only 8 percent of drivers in fatal crashes with high BACs (0.08 percent or higher) had previous alcohol-impaired driving convictions on their records. The actual incidence of previous convictions could be higher, because information on convictions was available for only the prior 3 years. In addition, some alcohol offenses are not included on driver records because of court programs that allow drivers to remove or avoid a conviction if they attend educational programs. Still, most alcohol-impaired driving fatal crashes do not involve drivers with a long history of multiple alcohol convictions.
Is the problem of alcohol-impaired driving limited to people with very high BACs? No. Among passenger vehicle drivers with illegal BACs (0.08 percent or higher) who died in crashes in 2007, 28 percent had BACs lower than 0.15 percent.
Have hard-core drinking drivers been unaffected by countermeasures directed at all drivers? No. It often is suggested that alcohol-impaired driving crashes are increasingly caused by people with very high BACs and repeat offenders. However, between 1982 and 2007, all categories of illegal BACs declined among fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers: 0.08-0.14 percent, 0.15-0.19 percent, 0.20-0.24 percent, and 0.25 percent and higher. In 1982, 14 percent of fatally injured drivers had BACs of 0.08-0.14 percent compared with 9 percent in 2007. The percentage of fatally injured drivers with BACs of 0.15 percent or higher declined from 37 percent in 1982 to 26 percent in 2007. Most of the declines occurred between 1982 through the mid-1990s. Since then, the percentages have stayed about the same or risen slightly for all BAC categories. Previous alcohol convictions reflect both driving behavior and law enforcement patterns. During 1991-1995, about 12 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent had alcohol convictions during the previous 3 years. This percentage declined to 8 percent in both 2006 and 2007. These statistics do not support the claims that hard-core drinking drivers have become a larger part of the problem or that they have been unaffected by countermeasures directed at all drivers.