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The Impact of Drunk Driving on North Carolina by the Numbers

When you buckle up and begin to drive, it’s reasonable to expect others to drive responsibly – though we all know that’s not really the case. There are all kinds of distracted and impaired drivers on the road causing car accidents each day. Possibly the worst people we share the road with are drunk drivers.

Here’s a breakdown of DWI accident statistics. If you know someone who might drive while impaired, show them this. Maybe next time, they’ll catch a ride instead.

National Drunk Driving Statistics for Context

Before we dive into North Carolina’s numbers, let’s establish context. Nationally, in 2019, there were 10,142 deaths from drunk driving crashes in the U.S. according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That means that drunk driving caused 28% of all traffic fatalities for the year.

Every day, 28 people die on U.S. roads as the result of an alcohol-related crash. That’s one person every 51 minutes.

North Carolina DWI Statistics

North Carolina roads are dangerous enough without drunk drivers, but there’s seemingly no getting rid of the threat. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Crash Facts report gives us an accurate picture of exactly how dangerous the roads can be – and how much DWI contributes to the danger.

Crashes, injuries, and fatalities due to DWI in NC.

For perspective, here are the totals for crashes, injuries, and fatalities over the same span.

Five Year Avg (15-19) 2020
Total crashes 272,192 247,214
Total injury crashes 80,851 69,001
Total fatalities 1,426 1,658

So what are the takeaways?

  • Alcohol-related fatalities increased from the five year average.
  • Drunk driving accidents accounted for 24.8% of all traffic fatalities, but just 4.6% of all crashes.
  • Alcohol-related crashes result in a fatality 3.5% of the time, while crashes from all types combined are fatal 0.6% of the time.
  • In North Carolina, you are about six times as likely to die if you’re involved in an alcohol-related crash than you are in a crash that does not involve alcohol.
CRASH FACT: Distracted driving was noted as the cause of 44,128 crashes in North Carolina in 2020, and 157 fatalities. DWI caused about a quarter as many crashes (11,475) and still resulted in over 250% more fatalities (412).

North Carolina’s Worst Counties for DWI Crashes, Injuries, and Fatalities*

As you might imagine, the most populous counties are usually the largest offenders when it comes to DWI crashes.

Top 3 North Carolina Counties for Drunk Driving-Related Car Accidents

#1 – Wake (949 crashes)
#2 – Mecklenburg (901 crashes)
#3 – Guilford (602 crashes)

Top 3 North Carolina Counties for Drunk Driving-Related Car Accidents with Injuries

#1 – Mecklenburg (452 injury crashes)
#2 – Wake (422 injury crashes)
#3 – Guilford (307 injury crashes)

Top 3 North Carolina Counties for Drunk Driving-Related Fatalities

#1 – Mecklenburg (53 fatal crashes)
#2 – Guilford (25 fatal crashes)
#3 – Wake (21 fatal crashes)

*Statistics reflect numbers as of 2020.

CRASH FACT: In 2020, the county reporting the fewest alcohol-related crashes was Alleghany with just five. It also reported two injuries as a result of those accidents.

North Carolina’s Deadliest Cities for DWI Crashes, Injuries, and Fatalities*

Most North Carolina residents live in cities. According to the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management (NCOSBM), as of 2019, 60% of North Carolinians (6.26 million people) lived in urban areas. That’s up from 50.4% in 2000.

Obviously, the more people in an area, the more likely there are to be DWIs. But which urban areas are the most dangerous in that respect?

Most dangerous cities in North Carolina: total alcohol-related car accidents.

Most Dangerous Cities in North Carolina: Percentage of Total Crashes that are Alcohol-Related

While the larger metropolitan areas logically have more crashes, it’s interesting to see that the percentage of crashes related to alcohol is not highest in those areas. Here are the most dangerous cities (population 10,000+) in terms of percentage of total crashes that were alcohol related.

Waynesville        6.16%
Laurinburg           6.05%
Summerfield       5.63%
Statesville            5.24%
Carrboro              5.04%

*Statistics reflect numbers as of 2020.

CRASH FACT: In incorporated “urban” areas with smaller populations (10,000 or less), the % of crashes related to alcohol can be somewhat misleading. For instance, 100% of all crashes in Hassell, North Carolina were alcohol-related – there was only one reported crash in 2020. No one was hurt.

Teenage Drunk Driving Stats in North Carolina

The NCDOT tracks data regarding teens in crashes, but does not specify in how many cases teens were intoxicated behind the wheel. Other data suggests that teens are not often driving while impaired:

  • In 2020, the number of teens involved in alcohol-related crashes regardless of driver age increased for the first time in five years to 1,014 after having decreased steadily from 1,194 in 2015 to 975 in 2019.
  • Similarly, in 2020 the number of teens injured in alcohol-related crashes rose to 484, breaking five straight years of decline, from 1,722 in 2015 to 1,327 in 2019.
  • In 2020, teen fatalities in alcohol-related accidents jumped more than 250%, from nine fatalities in 2019 to 24 in 2020. The 24 fatalities represent the highest number since 2011.

While those statistics may provide some comfort, other statistics give us reason to proceed with caution. In 2019, 15% of drivers aged 15-20 involved in fatal crashes in the U.S. had a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 or higher according to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

CRASH FACT: In 2020, there was an alcohol-related crash fatality in North Carolina every 21.2 hours. There was an alcohol-related injury crash about every 71 minutes.

Holidays and Drunk Drivers in North Carolina by the Numbers

If you’re celebrating the holiday with a couple of drinks, you’re not alone. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that holidays are a hotbed for drunk driving and DWIs in North Carolina, but the statistics are intriguing. Here are the stats for 2020. The percentage of total fatalities refers to the amount of people killed in alcohol-related crashes in relation to the total number of people killed in traffic crashes during the holiday period as defined by the state.

Holidays and Drunk Drivers in North Carolina By the Numbers

To give a broader perspective, the total number of holiday fatalities in alcohol-related crashes was 41, with a statewide total for the year of 412 alcohol-related fatalities. About 10% of fatalities happened on holidays. Of course, those 41 fatalities happened in just 27 days, so the rate of fatalities was higher.

CRASH FACT: In 2020, the state had its two deadliest holidays for alcohol-related crashes since 10 people died over Memorial Day in 2016. Both the 4th of July and Labor Day weekends in 2020 produced 10 or more.

If You Were Hurt by a Drunk Driver, Call Us

The attorneys at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin recognize the danger posed by drunk drivers and the harm they can cause. If you’re injured and the other driver was cited for DWI, you may have a strong case for compensation. Call us any time 24/7 at 866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation, or simply contact us online. Tell them you mean business.

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Unless otherwise noted, the statistics and data found in the tables on this page were pulled from North Carolina 2020 Traffic Crash Facts issued by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.