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Drinking and Driving: A Threat to Everyone

Though episodes of drinking and driving have gone down by 30% during the past 5 years, it remains a serious problem. Alcohol-impaired drivers are involved in about 1 in 3 crash deaths, resulting in nearly 11,000 deaths in 2009. A recent CDC report discusses drinking and driving and the proven measures that can help.

A Serious Problem, Happening 112 Million Times a Year

U.S. drivers got behind the wheel after drinking too much about 112 million times in 2010.

Certain groups are more likely to drink and drive than others.

  • Men were responsible for 4 in 5 episodes (81%) of drinking and driving in 2010.
  • Young men ages 21-34 made up only 11% of the U.S. population in 2010, yet were responsible for 32% of all instances of drinking and driving.
  • 85% of drinking and driving episodes were reported by people who also reported binge drinking. Binge drinking means 5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women during a short period of time.

Steps for Safety

Seat belts help keep everyone safe on the road.

Seat belts can protect every passenger on every trip. Just by buckling up, you reduce your risk of serious injuries and deaths from crashes by about 50%.

There are proven steps that people can take to help prevent drinking and driving.

States can:

  • Enforce 0.08% blood alcohol concentration and minimum legal drinking age laws.
  • Expand the use of sobriety checkpoints.
  • Require ignition interlocks for everyone convicted of drinking and driving, starting with their first offense.
  • Consider including strategies to reduce binge drinking—such as increasing alcohol taxes—to reduce drinking and driving, since the two behaviors are linked.
  • Pass primary enforcement seat belt laws that cover everyone in the car.

Employers can:

Definitions of proven measures

  • Sobriety checkpoints are locations at which police stop drivers to judge if they are driving under the influence.
  • The minimum legal drinking age prohibits selling alcohol to people under age 21 in all 50 states.
  • Ignition interlocks are devices that prevent drivers from operating their vehicles if they have been drinking.
  • State primary enforcement seat belt laws allow police to stop vehicles just because someone is not wearing a seat belt.
  • Set policies that immediately take away all work-related driving privileges for any employee cited for drinking and driving while using a company or personal vehicle for work purposes.
  • Use workplace health promotion programs to communicate the dangers of drinking and driving, including information directed to family members.

Health professionals can:

  • Help patients realize that car crashes are the leading cause of death for everyone ages 5-34 and that 1 in 3 of all crash deaths involves a drunk driver.
  • Routinely screen patients for risky drinking patterns, including binge drinking, and provide a brief intervention—a 10–15 minute counseling session—for patients who screen positive.

Everyone can:

  • Choose to not drink and drive and help others do the same.
    • Before drinking, designate a nondrinking driver when with a group.
    • If out drinking, get a ride home or call a taxi.
    • Don't let friends drink and drive.
  • Choose not to binge drink themselves and help others not to do it.
  • Talk with a doctor or nurse about drinking and driving and request counseling if drinking is causing health, work, or social problems.
  • Buckle up every time, no matter how short the trip. Encourage passengers in the car to buckle up, including those in the back seat.

Image: Policy impact: Alcohol Impaired Driving.More Information

  • Page last reviewed: October 4, 2011
  • Page last updated: October 4, 2011
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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