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NHTSA: 1 in 5 admit drinking & driving

Federal officials Wednesday punctuated their annual summer's-end announcement of a crackdown on drunk drivinghalsey.gif with the release of a survey which revealed that one in five Americans admit to climbing behind the wheel after drinking.

The survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also found that eight percent of all drivers, as many as 17 million people, have driven drunk at least once during the past year. The study found that few 16 to 20 year-olds admitted to driving after drinking, but those who did said they drank almost six alcohol beverages at one sitting. Eight percent of those 16 and older said in the past year they have been the passenger of a driver they thought may have consumed too much alcohol to drive safely.

The annual crackdown by thousands of law enforcement across the country will run through Labor Day. The effort will be supported by $13 million in television and radio advertising from NHTSA.

-- Ashley Halsey III

By Michael Bolden  | August 25, 2010; 5:07 PM ET
Categories:  Driving, Traffic Safety  
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Only 20% of people drive after having had one or two beers within the last two hours? Honestly I'm shocked the percentage is that low, if anything.

Posted by: wmsheppa | August 25, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

You included our congress when they are in session right?

Posted by: banger909 | August 25, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

I have driven over the legal limit but I don't ever recall being in an accident. I am not advocating drinking and driving by any means, but what we have now defined as illegal is pretty much anything over a drink in one hour. 2 drinks in about 3 hours. So that is that. I have been over that limit on numerous occasions. What is all the fuss about. People have been drinking and driving for ages. Is it a good thing, probably not, but it really isn't earth shaking news. What should be news is how many lives are ruined by borderline DUI arrests.

Posted by: keithlb28 | August 26, 2010 6:46 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the above post. Many lives have been ruined by BS borderline DUI arrests, while other hard core offenders (like the one that killed one nun and injured two other in rural VA) falls through the cracks.

What is so ironic is cops are by far some of the craziest partiers ever, and I bet they "took a chance" every now and then, to say the least. Getting to a .08 doesn't take a whole lot of booze.

Cops should try to arrange DD programs and find a way to subsidize something for weekend nights.

Posted by: bmm3571 | August 26, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

I usually take more caution when I drink and drive but it ruins the buzz so I rather find somebody to drive me around so I can get wasted.

Posted by: mossmillennium | August 26, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Our current system is designed to punish folks who drive after 3 drinks, but it fails to target those who are habitually drunk and drive on suspended licenses. More importantly, it fails to punish non-drinkers who are just horrible drivers at any speed and who pose a threat to pedestrians. Unfortunately, traffic enforcement is largely geared toward revenue (and placating MADD) rather than arresting folks who just don't know how to drive, and don't care about safety.

Posted by: Dave115 | August 26, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the other folks who have said that the problem with this sort of study is similar to the problem with talking about "speeding"--it uses an absolute, and often artificial, figure (the BAC level of .08) to determine whether a person is "drunk," whereas whether a person is incapacitated to a degree where it's unsafe to drive is not a question that can actually be determined by adherence to that sort of bright-line test.

Consider this part: "one in five Americans admit [sic] to climbing behind the wheel after drinking." What does "drinking" mean in this context? One beer? Four beers over the course of three hours at a ballgame? Who knows? "After drinking" is meaningless without context. I only know one licensed driver who MIGHT be buzzed to the point of being unable to drive after a single beer, and that's only because he doesn't drink anything containing alcohol so he presumably has no tolerance. (I say "licensed driver" because obviously my 6-year-old nephew might get heavily bombed if he drank a 12-ounce beer, but he's not likely to be driving either.) I'll freely admit that I'll often have a beer or two before going to a Caps game (puck drops at 7:00 PM for most games) and then drive home after the game (9:30 PM for most games), but I wouldn't consider that to be "driving after drinking." (I seldom buy beer AT the games because it's too darn expensive.)

It's similar to a study that says "95% of Americans admit to speeding within the past year." "Speeding" in this context means "drove faster than the number posted on the sign." It doesn't mean "drove so fast as to endanger themselves or anyone else."

Of course, I do understand why they have to use some sort of bright-line test. Enforcement becomes virtually impossible otherwise, and I'll readily concede that it's unacceptable to punish drunk drivers only AFTER they cause serious or fatal crashes.

Posted by: 1995hoo | August 26, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

It's hard enough to drive around here sober. The legal limit should be zero in areas with traffic.

Posted by: jiji1 | August 26, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

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