New Statistics: 9% of You Drove “Drunk” Last Month

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on May 14th, 2008

What do you do when literally millions of American citizens admit to violating a law on a regular basis — say, at least once a month?  How do you catch that many?  How do you build enough jails?  Or is it time to maybe take a second look at that law?   


 Study: 9% of Us Admit to Drunk Driving

U.S.A. Today  -  Despite nearly 30 years of media campaigns detailing the dangers of drunken driving, almost one in 11 people admit to driving when they thought they were legally intoxicated, according to a survey released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

 Of 2,509 adults surveyed, 9% said they had driven within the previous 30 days when they believed their blood-alcohol content was .08% or above, the legal threshold for drunken driving in all states and Washington, D.C. The AAA Foundation is a non-profit research and education group founded by AAA auto club in 1947.

The results resemble those of an unrelated, larger study released last week by the federal government. The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration’s survey of 127,000 adults found that 15% of drivers 18 and older said they had driven under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year.

"It’s frightening," says Aaron White, adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center who studies drunken driving among young people. "If you’ve got 10% of the people saying I drove when I was over the legal limit, you’ve probably got another chunk of people that would say I drank and drove but I wasn’t over the limit."

White and his colleagues just completed a study of 5,000 recent high school graduates; they found 10% of the grads had drunk and driven within two weeks of being questioned…


Think about that.  Millions of people in the U.S. are driving with .08% blood-alcohol on a fairly regular basis – and that’s just counting the ones who admit it.

Maybe it’s time to recognize certain realities.  Rather than dismantling the Constitution and destroying the lives of countless citizens who statistically pose little danger, perhaps we should take a closer look at how the law addresses the problem.  Such as recognizing that a .08% blood-alcohol  level is an arbitrary figure, failing to recognize individual tolerance to alcohol.  The original level, as recommended years ago by the American Medical Association, was .15%.  See my post, DUI, MADD and the New Prohibition.  

Such as focusing instead on the small percentage of drivers who pose the greatest risk of harming others. 

The simple fact is that a small percentage of drivers pose the largest risk – those who abuse alcohol.  As any experienced DUI attorney will tell you, the risk is not from the vast majority of drivers who are over an arbitrary .08% level; it is from the chronic alcoholic who has a .24% BAC.  See my previous post, Time for a Change

So what was MADD’s reaction to the newly-released statistics?  From the same U.S.A. Today article:

 

…The most effective way to combat that attitude is with mandatory ignition interlocks for anyone convicted of drunken driving, says Heidi Castle, vice president of communications for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "People continue to drive drunk because they can, and ignition interlocks stop that," she says.
 

A typically naive and simplistic approach to a complex problem.  See my guest editorial in Business WeekMADD Announces End to Drunk Driving: A Reply

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