How Much Do Alcohol-Related Crashes Cost North Carolina Each Year?

Home / FAQ / Drunk Driving Accident FAQ / How Much Do Alcohol-Related Crashes Cost North Carolina Each Year?

A toy car in a half-filled shot glass next to a phone and sitting on several bills of paper money.There is no excuse for driving drunk in this day and age. There have been so many campaigns and warnings against impaired driving that everyone should know the dangers to themselves and others.

Unfortunately, alcohol affects decision-making abilities. Intoxicated people often feel overconfident about their abilities and are not aware of their impairments.

There are also people who drink but still feel sober when they begin to drive. They then become intoxicated as the alcohol enters their system while driving.

North Carolina police reported 11,090 accidents with a driver or pedestrian having over a 0.01 blood alcohol content level. About 73,300 crashes are believed to have involved alcohol but were not reported by the police.

In these crashes, 536 people were killed, and 26,400 people were injured.

22% of North Carolina’s motor vehicle collisions involve alcohol. These accidents cost people about 3.8 billion dollars: 2.1 billion dollars for losses in quality of life and 1.7 billion dollars for monetary costs.

People other than the drunk driver paid $2.3 billion of the alcohol-related crash bill.

The average estimated cost for each injured survivor of an accident involving alcohol in North Carolina is $97,000, of which $47,000 went to economic damages and $50,000 compensated non-economic or loss of quality of life damages.

When someone is killed in a drunk driving accident, the average fatality costs about 3.4 million dollars. In these fatality cases, 1.1 million dollars is paid towards monetary costs, and 2.3 million dollars is paid to compensate for the loss of the quality of life of the family.

How Common Is Drunk Driving?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 37 people are killed every day in drunk driving accidents. That number equates to one person killed every 39 minutes.

In 2021, 13,384 people were killed because someone made the decision to drive while impaired by alcohol. That fact means that 13,384 people’s families had to endure the loss of someone they loved.

All of these deaths could have been prevented if people had followed the law to not drink and drive.

Average Cost of Alcohol-Related Crashes Per Mile Driven

North Carolina has calculated that the cost per mile driven by someone with a blood alcohol content level over 0.10 is $5.60. Drivers with BAC levels between 0.08 and 0.09 cost about $2.40 per mile.

Insurance Company Payments

Approximately 19% of car insurance payments are made for alcohol-related collisions. Reducing drunk driving accidents by just 10% could save 57 million dollars per year in insurance payments toward claims for damages and loss adjustment expenses.

How Does Drinking Alcohol Make Someone Impaired?

Consuming alcohol is essentially consuming poison. The alcohol gets into the person’s bloodstream by getting absorbed directly through the walls of the stomach and small intestine, where it begins to affect multiple systems.

The brain is particularly sensitive to alcohol. Impaired reasoning and thinking, reduced brain function, and muscle coordination are all common side effects of alcohol.

Alcohol accumulates in the bloodstream until the liver is able to metabolize it, which takes place at different rates in different people.

How Much Alcohol Can Someone Drink Before Becoming Impaired?

The level of alcohol in someone’s system is measured by its weight in their blood. This measurement is called blood alcohol concentration or content.

The risk of causing a motor vehicle accident increases exponentially at 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood, which is why this amount and anything higher is illegal. However, alcohol begins affecting people long before they reach 0.08, according to the Department of Health and Aged Care in Australia.

In 2021, 2,266 people were killed by drunk drivers with a blood alcohol concentration between 0.01 and 0.07g/dL. Most people have difficulty tracking moving targets and performing more than one task at a time with a blood alcohol concentration of only 0.02g/dL.

Both of these functions are necessary for safe driving.

Consequences for Driving Drunk in North Carolina

North Carolina is not a friendly state for drunk drivers. Offenders have to face strict penalties when they are caught and convicted.

  • North Carolina is an implied consent state, meaning anyone driving on public roadways is agreeing to submit to a test for their blood alcohol concentration if the police deem it appropriate. Refusing the test, even if not intoxicated, results in a driver’s license suspension for one year. Anyone over 21 years old is legally intoxicated at 0.08 and higher, while anyone under 21 years old cannot legally have any alcohol in their system. Commercial drivers will be charged with driving while intoxicated starting at 0.04.
  • If the driver’s blood alcohol content is found at or above their respective legal limits, they are charged with driving while intoxicated, and their vehicle is impounded for ten days.
  • Driving privileges are revoked for 30 days when charged with driving while intoxicated.

Sentencing After Conviction

There are six sentencing levels ranging from level 5 to aggravated level 1. Level 5 is the least severe, with aggravated level 1 holding the highest punishment for the worst offenders.

  • Level 5 – A minimum of 48 hours of jail time or community service and up to a $200 fine
  • Level 4 – A minimum of 48 hours of jail time or community service and up to a $500 fine
  • Level 3 – A minimum of 72 hours of jail time or community service and up to a $500 fine
  • Level 2 – 7 days to 12 months of jail time and up to a $2000 fine
  • Level 1 – 30 days to 24 months of jail time and up to a $4000 fine
  • Aggravated Level 1 – 12 to 36 months of jail time and up to a $10,000 fine

Aggravating Factors Determining Sentencing Levels

Aggravating factors are elements that make the crime more severe than if the factor was not present. In North Carolina, they can include:

  • A previous driving while intoxicated conviction within the past seven years
  • A DWI conviction with a suspended license for another DWI conviction
  • Serious injury to a victim of a drunk driving accident caused by driving while intoxicated
  • Driving while intoxicated with a child under 18 years old in the vehicle

If 1 of these factors is present in your case, you are given a level 2 sentence. If two factors are present, you are given level 1.

If three or more factors are present, you must face aggravated level 1.

How to Be a Responsible Driver After Drinking Alcohol

The best way to drive after drinking alcohol is to choose not to drive.

  • If you are planning to drink, plan a way home, such as a designated driver, or have a rideshare service ready before you start drinking. If possible, stay where you are until sober.
  • If you drink without planning ahead, do not drive. Call a sober friend or family member to take you home, or call a rideshare service or taxi.
  • If you know of someone who has been drinking, do not let them drive. Take their keys and call a safe ride for them. Do not drive their vehicle if you have also been drinking.
  • If you serve alcohol to your guests, make sure they all have a sober ride home or let them stay with you until they are sober.
  • Even while you are a passenger in a car with a sober driver, wear your seatbelt. Someone else may have decided to be reckless, and your seatbelt is your best defense against a drunk driver.
  • Call the police if you see someone who may be driving drunk. You could be saving lives with your phone call.

Contact a Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer For More Information

If you have been injured by a drunk driver in North Carolina, call Tatum & Atkinson at (800) LAW-0804 for a free consultation today. We will get you the compensation you deserve as quickly as possible.