Drunk driving. Millions of Americans do it. Many say “What’s the harm, I got home safely and no one was hurt?” They put those keys in the ignition and drive away after drinking.
A brand new research by the Centers for Disease Control found that near 2% of American adults – around 4.2 million – have reported about at least one alcohol-impaired driving episode in the last 30 days. And it’s probably an underestimate, researchers said.
Beyond Hangovers: Drunk driving
Amy Jewett and colleagues based the study on a 2012 data from CDC to outline the typical drunk driver. They found that binge-drinking younger males between the ages of 21 and 34 made up one-third of drunk drivers. Men overall comprised 80% of impaired drivers.
“Alcohol-impaired driving crashes have accounted for about one third of all U.S. crash fatalities in the past two decades,” researchers said.
One of the victims is 7-year-old Xitclalli Vásquez — friends and family call her Chilli. She was on her way home from the mall after getting her hair cut and having a manicure as she wanted to look pretty for her birthday just three days away, Faces of Drunk Driving reported. A drunk driver slammed head-on into her car. He landed in jail for 10 years, and Chilli landed in a wheelchair for life.
“Alcohol and asphalt don’t mix. If you’re drinking, don’t get behind the wheel and take a chance on being arrested or hurting yourself or someone else,” the team behind Faces of Drunk Driving said.
Too much to drink
For the report, researchers asked people across the US the following question: “During the past 30 days, how many times have you driven when you’ve had perhaps too much to drink?”
“An estimated 4.2 million adults reported at least one alcohol-impaired driving episode in the preceding 30 days, resulting in an estimated 121 million episodes and a national rate of 505 episodes per 1,000 population annually,” researchers found. Overall, people who reported driving drunk also admitted other types of risky behaviors. Two particularly stood out: binge drinking and no seatbelt on.
In 2013, more than 10,000 people died in vehicle crashes in which the driver had a blood alcohol concentration above 0.08 percent, the legal limit for drunk driving, according to the report. The whole nation has adopted 0.08 percent BAC (blood alcohol concentration) as the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle for drivers aged 21 years or older, but rates of alcohol-impaired driving rates varied by more than fourfold among states, and were highest in the Midwest U.S. Census region, researchers wrote. The highest per-capita rate was found in Hawaii and the lowest in Utah.
Separate reports by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) found that alcohol affects drivers’ capabilities of managing maneuvers behind the wheel. Despite increased public awareness, drinking and drugged driving continues with an average of nearly 13,000 people killed each year in alcohol-related accidents and hundreds of thousands more injured.
So how can we reduce these numbers?
According to the team of researchers alcohol-impaired driving can be curbed if states and communities start increasing the use of effective interventions. These include publicized sobriety checkpoints and a strict enforcement of 0.08 g/dL, blood alcohol content laws as well as ignition interlocks for all persons convicted of alcohol-impaired driving, increasing alcohol taxes and enacting primary enforcement seat belt laws.
Did you ever witness an episode of drunk driving? Share your experience in the comments section below.