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SAMHSA News - May/June 2008, Volume 16, Number 3


Millions Are Driving Under the Influence

By Kristin Blank

A car swerves into a tree barely missing a school bus. A truck plows through a red light into oncoming traffic. We hear about incidents such as these on the local news almost every day. How serious a problem is this nationwide?

In a first-of-its-kind report, SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reveals troubling data, state by state, on drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs while driving.

Nationwide, an estimated 30.5 million drivers age 12 or older drove under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year, according to 2006 NSDUH data.

The report, State Estimates of Persons Aged 18 or Older Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Illicit Drugs, finds that 15.1 percent of current drivers age 18 or older drove under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year. In some states, the levels are higher—about one in four drivers.

Nearly 1 in 20 adult drivers age 18 or older drove under the influence of illicit drugs, such as marijuana/hashish, cocaine/crack, inhalants, hallucinogens, heroin, or prescription drugs used nonmedically.

The report’s findings are annual averages based on combined NSDUH data collected from 127,283 current drivers surveyed in 2004, 2005, and 2006, the most recent data available.

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Alcohol

Rates of past-year driving under the influence of alcohol were highest among current drivers age 18 or older in the following states:

  • Wisconsin (26.4 percent)

  • North Dakota (24.9 percent)

  • Minnesota (23.5 percent)

  • Nebraska (22.9 percent)

  • South Dakota (21.6 percent).

Utah had the lowest rate of people 18 or older driving under the influence of alcohol (9.5 percent).

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Illicit Drugs

Past-year rates of driving under the influence of illicit drugs among persons age 18 or older were highest in the following:

  • District of Columbia (7.0 percent)

  • Rhode Island (6.8 percent)

  • Massachusetts (6.4 percent)

  • Montana (6.3 percent)

  • Wyoming (6.2 percent).

New Jersey had the lowest rate of people age 18 or older driving under the influence of illicit drugs (3.2 percent).

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 16,700 deaths in 2004 were caused by accidents related to driving under the influence of alcohol. Overall, driving under the influence of alcohol and illicit drugs is among the leading sources of preventable death by injury in the United States.

The full report, State Estimates of Persons Aged 18 or Older Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Illicit Drugs, is available for free download on SAMHSA’s Web site at http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k8/
stateDUI/stateDUI.cfm
.

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