Trends in alcohol-impaired crashes in California, 2016 to 2021: A time series analysis for alcohol involvement and crash distribution among demographic subgroups

Christina A. Mehranbod, Ariana N. Gobaud, Charles C. Branas, Qixuan Chen, Daniel P. Giovenco, David K. Humphreys, Andrew G. Rundle, Brady R. Bushover, Christopher N. Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and control measures changed alcohol consumption in the United States (US) and globally. Before the pandemic, alcohol-impaired crashes contributed to approximately one-third of all road traffic crash injuries and fatalities nationally. We examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on crashes and examined differences in alcohol-involved crashes across various subgroups. Methods: The University of California Berkeley Transportation Injury Mapping Systems provided information on all crashes reported to the California Highway Patrol from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2021. Using autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) models applied to weekly time series data, we estimated the effect of California's first mandatory statewide shelter-in-place order (March 19, 2020) on crashes per 100,000 population. We also examined crash subgroups according to crash severity, sex, race/ethnicity, age, and alcohol involvement. Results: In California, the mean crash rate per week before the pandemic (January 1, 2016–March 18, 2020) was 9.5 crashes per 100,000 population, and 10.3% of those were alcohol-involved. After the initiation of the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, the percentage of crashes that were alcohol-involved rose to 12.7%. Overall, the crash rate across California decreased significantly (−4.6 crashes per 100,000; 95% CI: −5.3, −3.9), including across all examined subgroups, with the greatest decrease among the least severe crashes. However, there was a 2.3% absolute increase in the proportion of crashes that were alcohol-involved (0.02 crashes per 100,000; 95% CI: 0.02, 0.03). Conclusions: The initiation of a COVID-19 stay-at-home ordinance in California was associated with a substantial decrease in overall crash rates. While crashes have returned to pre-pandemic levels, alcohol-involved crashes remain elevated. The initiation of the stay-at-home order significantly increased alcohol-impaired driving, which has remained elevated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1119-1131
Number of pages13
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • alcohol-impaired driving
  • crashes
  • pandemic

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