Over Four Million Americans Drive Drunk Monthly, Study Says

By McCarton Ackerman 08/11/15

The CDC estimates over 120 million people drive drunk every year.

blurry road night.jpg

Instances of drunk driving are hardly reserved for a select and reckless few. A new study has found that over four million Americans admitted to driving drunk in the last month alone.

The new findings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 4.2 million people admitted to getting behind the wheel “at least once in the prior month,” which leads to a conservative estimate of 121 million drunk-driving instances per year. Alcohol abuse expert Scott Krakower also noted in 2013 that “39% of college students reported binge drinking in the past month,” showing that much of the trend may be youth-oriented.

But while millions of Americans are guilty of driving drink, it is in fact a minority contributing to the majority of these episodes. About 4% of adults are considered binge drinkers, defined as men who have five or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting and women who have four or more. However, the CDC found that these binge drinkers “are involved in nearly two-thirds of all drunk-driving accidents.”

The CDC concluded with several recommendations for individual states to better address this issue, including increased alcohol taxes, expanding roadside sobriety checkpoints, and creating plans to target underage drinking specifically.

All of these suggestions would likely have a meaningful impact since a study published last month in the International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research showed that states with more restrictive alcohol policies have lower rates of self-reported drunk driving. The data showed that a mere 10% increase across all states in strength related to alcohol restrictions “would result in about 404,903 fewer impaired drivers monthly.”

In addition, research published online last April in the American Journal of Public Health correlated raising alcohol taxes with a reduction in drunk-driving fatalities. Scientists at the University of Florida in Gainesville examined the effects of 2009 tax increases on alcohol in Illinois and found alcohol-related traffic deaths fell overall by 26%. Deaths among young people in these accidents dropped by 27%, while fatal crashes involving alcohol-impaired and extremely intoxicated drivers declined by 22% and 25%.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.