Americans Admit to Driving After Using Drugs and Alcohol

Americans Admit to Driving After Using Drugs and Alcohol

There are many dangerous behaviors associated with the use of drugs and alcohol. The rate of risky sexual behaviors goes up with the use of drugs and alcohol, as well as the occurrence of related injuries. One dangerous behavior that affects not only the user but countless others is the decision to drive while using drugs or alcohol.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides information about the state of drug and alcohol use in the United States. The reports issued by SAMHSA offer insight into developing effective strategies for preventing dangerous behaviors associated with substance use.

According to SAMHSA data, approximately 30 million Americans aged 16 years and older admit to drunk driving. In addition, an estimated 10 million report that they have driven while under the influence of drugs.

The analysis completed by SAMHSA indicates that those figures may translate to approximately 20 percent of the population admitting to driving in drunk in some states. On average across the states, 13.2 percent of those aged at least 16 years drove while under the influence of alcohol in the last year, while 4.3 percent drove while using illegal drugs.

The rates of driving while using a substance vary widely from one state to another. For example, the highest percentage of drunk driving took place in Wisconsin and North Dakota (23.7 and 22.4 percent, respectively). The highest rates of driving while using an illegal drug were recorded in Rhode Island and Vermont (7.8 and 6.6 percent, respectively). The lowest levels of drunk driving were found in Utah and Mississippi.

The use of alcohol and drugs while driving also varies among different age groups. In a self-reported body of data, it was estimated that those aged 16 to 25 years drive while under the influence of alcohol at a rate of 19.5 percent, while those over the age of 26 report a rate of 11.8 percent.

The use of illegal drugs in combination with driving also varies by age. Those aged 16 to 25 used drugs while driving at a rate of 11.4 percent, while adults over the age of 26 reported driving while under the influence of drugs at a rate of 2.8 percent.

SAMHSA’s report includes encouraging information. The rates of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol has dropped in recent years. In the report summarizing data from 2002 to 2005, the rate of alcohol-influenced driving was 14.6 percent. However, in the recent report released detailing information from 2006 to 2009, the rate had dropped to 13.2 percent. Likewise, driving while under the influence of drugs dropped from 4.8 percent to 4.3 percent in the same time period.

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