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Drunk driving down, still a factor in a third of crash deaths

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October 04, 2011
  • Self-reported drunk driving is down in the United States, but in 2009, about 11,000 people still died in collisions involving impaired drivers, the CDC reports.
Self-reported drunk driving is down in the United States, but in 2009, about… (Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg )

Drunk driving is down -- nearly 30% from its peak in 2006, if Americans responding to a recent survey can be believed.  

Even so, an estimated 4 million Americans still admitted to at least once having operated a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, resulting in about 112 million "alcohol impaired driving episodes" and thousands of fatalities, wrote researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a paper published Tuesday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The team, based at the CDC, used telephone survey data to compile drunk driving statistics for 2010.  They found that men accounted for 81% of the reported drunk driving events; young men between 21 and 34 years of age were involved in 32%.  How much people drank was a big factor: 85% of impaired driving incidents were reported by people who admitted binge drinking and 55% were reported by the mere 4.5% of those polled who said they binge drank at least four times a month.  

People who said they didn't always wear their seat belts said they drove drunk at a rate four times higher than those who said they always bucked up.  Midwesterners had the highest rate of drunk driving, as well as the highest percentage of binge drinking, the paper reported.

This year's stats represent the lowest percentage of drinking drivers since 1993, the first year the estimates were available. Reasons for the decline might include tough economic times that have people driving less or folks drinking in places that don't require driving, such as home, the researchers said.  

But with one-third of driving fatalities still linked to alcohol-impaired driving, they wrote, the U.S. still needs better enforcement of laws and policies that cut back on drunk driving -- sobriety checkpoints, minimum-age laws and alcohol taxes, to name a few.

Read more about the new drunk driving statistics at the CDC website.

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