A Terrifying Revelation about Our Drunk Driving Habits: New CDC Report

cdc-study-finds-many-drunk-drivers-are-young-malesFor years the Centers for Disease Control has been tracking drunk driving in America. Not only does the agency collect and interpret data on collisions, impaired driving, and other important road safety matters, it also conducts surveys to get a better picture of drivers’ behavior.

That behavior is not good, according to the most recent information. In fact, it’s scary. The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the publication through which the agency distributes important public health information, asked adults from all 50 states this question:

During the past 30 days, how many times have you driven when you’ve had perhaps too much to drink?”

Almost 2 percent of respondents admitted to driving impaired in the preceding month. If the carefully-structured survey was in fact representative, then 4.2 million adults drive under the influence in a given month. That comes out to 121 million instances of drunk driving a year in America.

121 million is the population of Mexico, and twice that of Italy. Imagine if every single Italian came over to America one year and drove drunk twice.

The CDC report tells us a lot about who is driving drunk:

  • Young men aged 21-34 did 32% of the impaired driving, even though they represented just 11% of the population.
  • Those who admitted to binge drinking were responsible for 85% of DUI episodes. Binge drinking is defined as five drinks in two hours for men, and four drinks in two hours for women.

There’s a lot to be learned from this report, but what jumps out at us is the likelihood that someone who has been arrested for DUI has driven drunk before. With so many people offending so many times, it.s only a matter of time until the law catches up to them.

The study recommends several measures:

  • Publicized sobriety checkpoints
  • Stricter enforcement of .08 BAC levels and underage drinking laws
  • Ignition interlocks (car breathalyzers) for all persons convicted of alcohol-impaired driving
  • Increased alcohol taxes
  • Stronger seat belt laws (not using seat belts correlates with drunk driving)

The recommendation for ignition interlocks for all offenders is based on the success such all-offender programs have had in many states. Sometimes thought too harsh for first-time DUI offenders, such laws make perfect sense in light of this report and other similar findings. That drunk driver has probably driven under the influence before, and he or she probably will again. The interlock device prevents that from happening.

So the news is not good: too many Americans are admitting to driving after drinking, and it’s hard to know how many more are doing it without admitting it. Binge drinking, which is popular among younger males, is especially conducive to drunk driving.

Those recommendations from the CDC? Let’s have another look at them, shall we?