New York Impaired Driving Rate Falls in 2017

Drivers in New York seem to be getting the message that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is bad. Newly released data from the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles shows that accidents from impaired driving are on the decline. Police reported 9,177 accidents in which drugs or alcohol were a factor in 2017. While this is not the lowest impaired-driving crash rate on record, it is still part of an overall decline in impairment-related accidents. The news is all the better given that in 2017 police issued the fewest number of drunk driving citations in the past eight years.

The number of drug- or alcohol-related crashes dipped 0.34% from 9,208 in 2016. This is still 7% higher than the six-year low of 8,579 reported in 2015. For the most part however, the number of impaired crashes has gradually declined since 2009, in which 9,701 accidents listed alcohol or drugs as a factor.

The decline in impaired driving coincides with a drop in DWI citations across the state. Last year, state and local police (excluding NYPD) wrote 61,554 tickets for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is 2.3% fewer impaired driving tickets than in 2016 and 24.7% fewer than 2009.

Where Did the Most Impaired Driving Accidents in NYS Occur?

There should be little surprise that the most populous region in the state–New York City–had the most drug- or alcohol-related crashes of any region in 2017. Nearly 1,800 impaired drivers were involved in accidents that year, a nearly 16% increase from 2016. Four of the five counties that comprise NYC were among the top 10 counties for impaired crashes, with Brooklyn having the most (546).

Nearby Long Island saw the next highest portion of impaired-driving-related accidents. Suffolk County, which includes tourist hotspots like Montauk, the Hamptons, and Robert Moses Beach, had the greatest number of such accidents of any other single county, with 940 reported in 2017. Nassau County was not far behind, with 582 crashes involving drugs or alcohol. Despite the high number of accidents, 2017 saw a strong decline in both counties, with impaired accidents dropping about 13% each.

Among New York State’s 62 counties, there was a near even split among those that saw an increase in impaired driving accidents and those that saw a decrease. Only Franklin County’s number of such crashes (37) remained flat.

Counties That Saw an Increase in Impaired Driving Accidents in 2017

 2017 Crashes2017 Population 2017 Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

Counties That Saw a Decrease in Impaired Driving Accidents in 2017

 2017 Crashes2017 VMTCrashes per 1,000 VMT
Bronx 4778692110001.51
Queens 37956202890001.26
Wyoming 645329200001.15
Nassau 309612258500001.14
Tompkins 4049319670001.1
Schenectady 7548531420001.06
Franklin 1800011970000.97
Yates 606045670000.93

December 2017 Had Uncommonly High Volume of Impaired Accidents

Data shows 2017 was an odd year for impaired driving accidents. In most years, the number of accidents involving drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol is relatively consistent throughout the year. From 2009 through 2016, each month averaged between 7% and 8% of the annual total with some peaks of 9% to 10% typically around the summer months.

But 2017 data does not conform to that trend. The summer months of 2017 lacked the typical spike in impaired crashes, with the only summer peak taking place in July with 8.63% of all crashes. Instead, there was a large buildup of such accidents in November (9.46%) and more so in December (10.23%). Police reported 939 drug- or alcohol-related crashes in December 2017. In addition to being the most number of accidents out of any month that year, it is also the most number of impaired-driving accidents reported in December out of the nine years of data available from the DMV. On the plus side, there fewer-than-normal fatalities than typically occurs in December, with only 16 reported.

More Older Drivers Being Charged with Impaired Driving

The proportion of older drivers getting ticketed for driving under the influence ticked up slightly in 2017. There was a nearly 12% increase in the number of drivers ages 60+ who were charged with impaired driving, from 1,798 to 2,008 in 2017. This trend was similar among both men and women. Similarly, the proportion of drivers between ages 30 and 59 charged with impaired driving edged up from 54.5% to 55.7%.

Younger drivers seem to accepting the dangers of driving while impaired. Approximately 40.5% of impaired driving charges were issued to drivers aged 29 or younger in 2016. In 2017, drivers under 29 received just 38.6% of tickets. Overall, there was a 6.14% decline in drivers under 30 charged with driving while impaired.

In addition, the data shows more women were caught impaired driving last year. Females comprised 25.6% of impaired driving tickets in 2016 but made up 26.1% in 2017.

Given the serious risk of injury and death associated with impaired driving, a decline in both impaired driving accidents means safer streets for everyone. The decrease in impaired driving among younger New Yorkers is particularly encouraging, as it hopefully means these good habits will stay with them as they get older. Also encouraging is that the dip in impaired driving accidents occurred in a year in which overall automotive accidents increased. To see more traffic violation and accident trends from 2017, check out our other data pages.

Impairment by NY County

See the impairment rates for each county in New York State. (NYC 5 boroughs not included)