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Alcohol Involvement in Fatal Motor-Vehicle Crashes -- United States, 1997-1998

The following table compares alcohol involvement in fatal motor-vehicle crashes by age group and blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels for 1997 and 1998. A fatal crash is considered alcohol-related by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) if either a driver or nonoccupant (e.g., pedestrian) had a BAC of greater than or equal to 0.01 g/dL in a police-reported traffic crash. Because BACs are not available for all persons in fatal crashes, NHTSA estimates the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities on the basis of a discriminant analysis of information from all cases for which driver or nonoccupant BAC data are available (1).

Overall, the percentage of traffic fatalities that were alcohol related remained constant at 38.4% in 1998 and 38.5% in 1997. From 1997 to 1998, the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities decreased 1.6% (95% confidence interval=-3.7%-0.6%), with a decease of 2.0% for BACs greater than or equal to 0.10 g/dL (the legal limit of intoxication in most states) and no percentage change (but one less death) for BACs of 0.01-0.09 g/dL.

A decrease of 5.8% in the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities is needed to achieve the national health objective for 2000. Effective strategies for reducing alcohol impaired driving include strict enforcement of impaired driving and minimum legal drinking age laws, sobriety checkpoints, and prompt suspension of licenses of persons arrested for driving while impaired. CDC, in collaboration with the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, is evaluating the effectiveness of community-based strategies to reduce alcohol-related motor-vehicle injuries.


  1. Klein TM. A method for estimating posterior BAC distributions for persons involved in fatal traffic accidents: final report. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1986. Report no. DOT-HS-807-094.

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