Federal officials have released a shocking report stating that 30 million Americans drive drunk each year and another 10 million drive while under the influence of drugs. The report was based on a study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA). The report also revealed that in some states, more than 20 percent of drivers are under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.
The SAMHSA study found that the percentage of impaired drivers varies by age, with the youngest drivers (ages 16 to 25) have the highest rate of driving under the influence. Although there are several government programs that attempt to deter young people from driving while drunk or drugged, SAMHSA officials cite the negative impact of the entertainment industry. In films like Due Date, impaired driving is portrayed as “harmless fun”.
Each year, thousands of people are killed or seriously injured in accidents involving drivers who are under the influence. In 2008, more than 11,000 people were killed in drunk driving crashes. This breaks down to 32 people dying per day, or one death every 45 minutes. According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), one in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related car crash at some point in their life.
Currently there are approximately 2 million drivers on the road with a record of three or more drunk driving convictions. MADD would like to target repeat drunk drivers through legislation which would require convicted drunk drivers to use an ignition interlock device. This device requires a driver to pass a breathalyzer test before the car will start. In order to prevent fraud, the driver is also required to pass random breathalyzer tests while driving. Most states in the U.S. have legislation that allows use of an ignition interlock to be included as part of a drunk driver conviction, but the device is not being required for all convictions.
Unfortunately, there is no device that can be used to limit drugged driving. Federal drug agencies are using education to warn the public about the dangers of driving when impaired by either illegal or over-the-counter drugs. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported in 2007 that 16 percent of nighttime drivers on weekends are under the influence of legal or illegal drugs. This figure indicates the magnitude of the drugged driver problem and highlights the need to reduce all drug abuse.
If you or someone you know is abusing drugs or alcohol, please contact our agency so that we can help you.