SAMHSA: 1 in 6 Americans Drives Drunk
> 4/23/2008 10:57:33 AM

Some disturbing statistics were revealed today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in a report titled "State Estimates of Adults Driving under the Influence of Alcohol and Illicit Drugs." This new report details the prevalence of drunk driving across the United States. Nationally, the SAMHSA reports that 15.1 percent of drivers over the age of 18 have driven under the influence of alcohol in the past year, and 4.7 percent have driven under the influence of an illicit drug.

The variance from state to state though, was wide. Utah had the lowest percentage of drivers who acknowledged driving drunk in the last year. While only 9.5 percent of drivers in the Beehive State got behind the wheel when intoxicated, more than a quarter of Wisconsin residents did the same. Several states placed in the top quintile in both drunk driving and driving under the influence of an illicit substance. Montana, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia all share that ignominious distinction. Meanwhile, New Jersey, Kentucky, and Alabama all placed in the bottom quintile for both measurements.

These statistics were derived from analysis of the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health from 2004 to 2006. These surveys ask a representative group of Americans about their drug and alcohol use along with questions about other health and well-being related topics.

It's difficult to make generalizations about a nation as diverse as the United States, but in looking at the map of the results, one can clearly see a trouble area in the Midwest, ranging from Kansas in the south to Montana's border with Canada in the north. New England neighbors Rhode Island and Massachusetts similarly are afflicted with high rates of drunk driving. Now, what works for one state in reducing this dangerous habit may not work for another, but it would make sense for these states, particularly those in the same area, to engage in some dialogue about what may be causing this high rate of drunk driving and how these states can work together to best stop it.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Montana, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas— all states in the top quintile of drunk driving — also had rates of alcohol related traffic fatalities above the U.S. average. In total, 13,470 individuals lost their lives in 2006 to a drunk driving accident. That number was down slightly from 2005, but the rate of .45 per 100 million miles traveled was unchanged. Traffic fatalities remain one of the largest preventable causes of death, and reducing the number of drunk driving fatalities would go a long way toward reducing that burden.

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