Alcohol Facts and Drunk Driving Statistics

In a survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2007 there were 1.4 million DUI arrests (which is greater than the combined number of arrests for arson, burglary, robbery, and vehicle theft combined). In California, there were over 204,000 arrests for drunk driving. In the United States, there were nearly 13,000 deaths involving alcohol-impaired driving, which constitute nearly 32 percent of all fatalities. Even more compelling is the fact that nearly 70 percent of all fatal crashes involved drunk drivers and no other vehicle was involved. The time of the day when most fatalities involving drunk driving occurred was between 12 a.m. (midnight) and 3 a.m. Lastly, and even more concerning, is the fact that 30 percent of the population is expected to be involved in an alcohol-related San Diego accident during their lifetime.

Types of Alcoholic Beverages:

  1. Beer is made from cereal grains (corn, rice) and malt. Malt is sprouted Barley. The enzymes in the malt convert the grain to sugar, then yeast changes the sugar to alcohol. Hops (the blossoms of the hop plant) are added to the mixture for taste. In the U.S. the alcohol content of beer is limited by law to 5 percent. If the alcohol content is above 5 percent it cannot be called beer. Mostly, this next level of alcohol content is called malt liquor.
  2. Malt liquor has an alcohol content of 5 percent to 7 percent.
  3. Wine is made from fruit and has an alcohol content of 8 percent to 14 percent.
  4. Fortified wine is wine mixed with brandy for higher alcohol content.
  5. Wine coolers made for young adults who are having their first experiences drinking alcohol (this is white wine + soda pop), because the transition from sweet-tasting pop to sweet-tasting wine is easy.


  1. Vodka is manufactured in the U.S. and has no smell and no taste, and it is not aged. Those familiar with the subject contend there is no difference between expensive vodka and cheap vodka.
  2. Gin is vodka with Juniper berries added for flavor. Both vodka and gin are pure alcohol with water added.
  3. Rum comes from sugar cane.
  4. Bourbon is made from corn alcohol aged in charred oak barrels. Jack Daniels is not a bourbon because it is “charcoal filtered”.
  5. Scotch is made from malt and other grains and aged in barrels that were previously used to age sherry. The malt has been dried over burning peat.
  6. Brandy is distilled wine.
  7. Liqueur is brandy with flavor added. Liqueur is about 20 percent alcohol — higher than wine, but less than whiskey.

Alcohol Absorption

Some alcohol is absorbed from the stomach, but most of it is absorbed through the small intestine.

Factors influencing the absorption rate of alcohol:

  1. The amount and kind of food we eat
  2. The content of alcohol — being drunk
  3. Our mood — Fear and anger causes the stomach to dump its contents into the small intestine (including the alcohol). Since most of the alcohol is absorbed in the small intestine, a person experiencing these moods gets drunk quicker.

Blood alcohol level:

% BAL: This is the effect that alcohol has on humans.

.05 Behavioral effects start, there is lower alertness, release of inhibitions, impaired judgment, often dashing and debonair.
.10 Slowed reaction time, impaired motor function, less caution, dangerous and devilish behavior.
.15 Extremely slow reaction time
.20 Decidedly intoxicated, marked reduction in sensory and motor functions. Dizzy and disturbing.
.25 Staggering, sensory perceptions greatly impaired, considered “smashed.”
.30 Conscious but stuporous, no comprehension of the world around them, delirious, disoriented. Decidedly drunk.

.35 The equivalent of surgical anesthesia, considered “dead drunk.”
.40 If your BAC is this high, there is a 50 percent chance you are dead.
.60 This is a BAC of someone who is definitely dead.


  1. Body weight — The larger a person is, the more volume he or she has for distribution, so increased body weight contributes to lower blood alcohol content or blood alcohol level.
  2. Muscle mass — Alcohol absorbs more readily into muscle mass than into fatty tissue. Therefore, the more muscular an individual, the lower his or her blood alcohol level will be (in contrast to an individual with more fatty tissue).

Alcohol metabolism:

(1) Alcohol dehydrogenase (an enzyme) and the liver are responsible for the metabolism of most of the alcohol. 2) The primary by product is acetaldehyde.

The amount of alcohol the liver can metabolize in an hour is .3 oz. of absolute alcohol (.6 oz. of 100 proof), regardless of how much alcohol is in the body or the blood alcohol level. Hence, when someone drinks more than .3 oz. per hour, his or her blood alcohol level increases.

We would never suggest that anyone drive after drinking. However, it is noteworthy that unless one is alcohol dependent, pregnant, or suffers from liver, pancreas, or kidney disease, the health advantages of having one or two drinks a day [clearly at home and in a location where there will be no risk of a driving under the influence charge or other adverse incident(s)] an occasional dribk has been reported to outweigh the disadvantages. Alcohol in this amount as a general rule increases HDL (“good cholesterol”), which is associated with lowered blood pressure and decreased risk of stroke and heart attack. Some physicians even urge certain patients to drink between one and two ounces of alcohol if they are hypertensive, or for patients who are recovering from heart attack or stroke.