Share this article:

Alcohol-related Deaths Up 9% Despite Fewer Cars on the Road During Pandemic

New Projected Crash Statistics Show Urgent Need to Require Drunk Driving Prevention Technology

WASHINGTON – Fatal crashes involving alcohol were up 9% in 2020 compared to 2019, even as vehicle miles traveled fell by 13%, according to preliminary estimates of crash fatalities involving vehicles, motorcycles and people walking and driving released today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

An estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, the largest projected increase since 2007. That represents about a 7% jump in overall traffic deaths in 2020 compared to 2019. Yet data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that vehicle miles traveled decreased by more than 430 billion miles.

“While horrific, the projections released today confirm what we’ve already learned anecdotally – even as people drove less during the pandemic, they were more likely to use alcohol and, as a result, more likely to be involved in a fatal crash,” said Alex Otte, National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

NHTSA’s analysis shows that the main contributors to the increase in highway deaths were impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear a seatbelt. The projections show significant increases during the last half of 2020 compared to those same months in 2019.

“This preliminary data shows us that Congress must act now to pass the RIDE Act in the Senate and the HALT Act in the House that would ultimately require drunk driving prevention technology in all new vehicles,” said Otte, who suffered severe injuries, including the loss of her right leg, when she was struck by a drunk boater at age 13.

This bipartisan legislation introduced this year would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue a rulemaking to make this lifesaving technology available in all new passenger vehicles. The rulemaking would involve a variety of drunk driving prevention systems, including driver monitoring, which can detect signs of distracted, impaired or fatigued driving, and alcohol detection, which uses sensors to determine that a driver is under the influence of alcohol and then prevent the vehicle from moving.

“MADD has identified 241 currently available technologies that, if in use today, would virtually end drunk driving and spare thousands of families the pain of losing a loved one to this 100% preventable crime,” Otte said.

More than 9,400 drunk driving deaths could be prevented each year when drunk driving prevention technology is made standard on every new car, according to a study released last year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Americans support Congressional action to require drunk driving prevention technology as standard equipment in all new vehicles, according to a nationwide poll conducted by Ipsos for MADD. More than 80% believe that new auto safety features should be standard in vehicles as they become available, and not part of optional equipment packages.

“Since MADD’s founding, drunk driving crashes have fallen by half. Yet more than 10,000 people continue to die from these preventable tragedies every year, representing a staggering one-quarter of all traffic fatalities,” Otte said. “The preliminary data released today is further proof that we cannot afford to wait any longer to require drunk driving prevention technology on all new cars. We must act now.”

The RIDE Act (S.1331) is sponsored by Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-New Mexico), Rick Scott (R-FL) and Gary Peters (D-MI). The HALT Act (HR 2138) is sponsored by Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI), David McKinley (R-WV) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY).

For more information, visit

About Mothers Against Drunk Driving Founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking. MADD has helped to save more than 400,000 lives, reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 50 percent and promote designating a non-drinking driver. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® calls for law enforcement support, ignition interlocks for all offenders and advanced vehicle technology. MADD has provided supportive services to nearly one million drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge through local victim advocates and the 24-Hour Victim Help Line 1-877-MADD-HELP. Visit or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.

Contact: Becky Iannotta, 202.600.2032, [email protected]

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.