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Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is an independent, nonprofit, research and communications organization dedicated to reducing highway crash deaths, injuries, and property damage losses. IIHS is whole supported by automobile insurers. Contains information on: Crash Tests and Vehicle Evaluations, News and Film, Airbags, Fatality Facts, State Law Facts, Driver and Passenger Information, Traffic Laws and Enforcement, Alcohol and Drugs, Speed, Motorcycles, Restraints and more. Human factors research addresses problems associated with teenage drivers, alcohol-impaired driving, truck driver fatigue, and safety belt use. Vehicle factors research focuses on both crash avoidance and crash worthiness. Crash tests are central to crash worthiness research, and the Institute has been conducing such tests for decades to illustrate the importance of safety belts and air bags. This work expanded with the opening of the the Institute's Vehicle Research Center and is an ongoing program of frontal crash tests. Research aimed at the physical environment includes assessment of roadways designs to reduce run-off-the road crashes and eliminate roadside hazards.

State laws making it illegal to drive with high blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) serve as the cornerstone of all efforts to reduce alcohol-impaired driving. Many people think the principal goal of such laws is to arrest and punish the drivers who put everyone else at risk. But arrest and punishment of offenders is a secondary objective. The most important objective is for the law to be a deterrent so that police find no alcohol-impaired drivers to arrest.

Hundreds of state laws targeting alcohol-impaired driving were enacted in the 1980's, and among those show to be the most effective are administrative license suspension (ALS) laws. Forty states and the District of Columbia have ALS laws. This information is found under Alcohol-Impired Driving.

Information on air bags, vehicle purchases and much more.

DWI POLICIES: Alcohol Monitoring Curbs Repeat Arrests for DUI, Domestic Violence"

Progress has been made in the past 20 years to reduce the proportion of fatally injured drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent. Proportions are lower in all age groups. They're lower among drivers of passenger vehicles, tractor-trailers, and motorcycles. There also has been a substantial decline among those with very high BACs (0.15 percent), who often are assumed to be "hard-core" drinking drivers. However, progress has stalled in recent years and alcohol-impaired driving is still a major problem.

All states now have enacted a law defining impairment as driving with a BAC at or above 0.08 percent. All states also have "zero tolerance" laws that prohibit people younger than 21 from driving after drinking. Typically, these laws prohibit driving with a BAC of 0.02 percent or greater. A BAC as low as 0.02 percent has been shown to affect driving ability. The probability of a crash rises significantly after 0.05 percent BAC and even more rapidly after about 0.08 percent. Among drivers age 35 and older with BACs at or above 0.15 percent on weekend nights, the likelihood of dying in a single-vehicle crash is 382 times higher than it is for non drinking drivers.

The information in this fact sheet is based on data from all 50 states with imputations for missing BACs provided by the U. S. Department of Transportation's multiple imputation model.2 The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U. S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

The Highway Loss Data Institute is a nonprofit, public service organization that gathers, processes, and publishes information on the ways insurance losses vary among different kinds of motor vehicles, safety,manufacturing problems, and passenger safety. It is closely associated and funded through the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is wholly supported by automobile users.

McCartt, Anne T., Williams, Allan F., "Characteristics of fatally injured drivers with high blood alcohol concentrations (BACs)" Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2004. Blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in the United States were used to examine the current and historical distributions of BACs and the characteristics of fatally injured drivers by BAC categories, including those with very high BACs. All categories of illegal BACs (0.08 percent or higher) declined substantially from 1982 to 2002, and declines were similar across BAC categories. Among illegally impaired drivers, the prevalence of several driver and crash characteristics increased systematically, but gradually, with increasing BACs. This study does not support the claim that "hard core drinking drivers" have become a larger part of the problem and have been unaffected by general deterrent approaches.

Red light cameras are helping drivers remember that red means stop and help save lives, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The study concludes that the cameras have reduced the rate of fatal crashes by 24 percent in 14 large cities that introduced red light cameras between 1996 and 2004. In cities with the cameras, the study also noted drops in all fatal crashes at intersections with traffic signals, not just hose caused by running red lights.

The institute claims that the reduction translates into 159 lives saved over five years in those cities. If all large cities had cameras, a total of 815 lives could have been saved. In 2009, 676 people were killed and an estimated 113,000 injured in red light crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System. For questions and answers on this topic:

This and more information if found in "Status Report", Vol. 46, No. 1, 12p. The entire report may be found on this page.

Drivers who run red lights are responsible for an estimated 260,000 crashes each year, of which approximately 750 are fatal. On a national basis, fatal motor vehicle crashes at traffic signals increased 24 percent between 1992 and 1997, far outpacing the 6 percent rise in all other fatal crashes. Red light running is a big part of the problem. Institute researchers determined that during this time period there were 3,753 red light running crashes from 702 in 1992 to 809 in 1996 a 15 percent increase.

Running red lights and other traffic controls like stop and yield signs is the most frequent type of urban crash, Institute research shows. Researchers studied police reports of crashes on public roads in four urban areas during 1990 and 1991. Of 13 crash types researchers identified, running traffic controls accounted for 22 percent of all crashes. Among crashes involving running traffic control, 24 percent involved running red lights. The same study shows that motorists are more likely to be injured in crashes involving red light running than in other types of crashes. Occupant injuries, occurred in 45 percent of the red light running crashes studied.

"Who cares if you're not speeding?" Vol. 34, No. 6, June 19, 1999

"Evidence is mounting: photo radar helps to lower speeds and reduce injury crashes", Vol. 33, No. 10.

"Red light running crashes increase", Vol. 33, No. 7, July 11, 1998. Click on back issues and use the pull down menu for the date desired.

"Institute Responds to Criticism of Red Light Cameras"

"Study Provides More Evidence That Cameras Reduce Red Light Running"

"Speed Camera Enforcement Cuts Fatality Rate 10 Percent in France"

"In the Nation's Capital, Solid Support for Automated Enforcement"


"Drinking and related problems decline when alcohol costs more", STATUS REPORT , 45 (6), June 19, 2010. (Review of 72 studies world wide.)The Task Force on Community Preventive Services, made up of US public health and prevention experts appointed by the Centers for Disease Control, conducted the review of papers published before July 2005 with support from the Centers for Disease Control and the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. The task force recommends the best practices for public health interventions.

Nearly all of the 72 students found an inverse relationship between tax or price of alcohol and indices of excessive drinking or alcohol-related problems, including crashes. Results were consistent among alcohol types--wine, beer, and liquor--and across countries, time periods, and study designs. Studies that looked at underage drinkers also found convincing evidence that increasing the cost of alcohol reduces consumption and problem drinking. More research is needed to determine the benefits of increasing taxes on all alcohol at once compared with selectively raising taxes on specific beverages, the task force states.

Prior studies by the group found strong evidence that ignition interlocks, sobriety checkpoints, and the legal drinking age of 21 are effective interventions to combat alcohol-impaired driving. To access this report and others click on "Status Reports", scroll down to "Access Back Issues", click on this and scroll down to desired issue.

"The effectiveness of tax policy interventions for reducing recessive alcohol consumption and related harms: by R. E. Elder et al., appears in the February 2010 issue of the AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE.


updated 12/19/16