WASHINGTON (AP) - An estimated 17 million people have driven while drunk
at least once on U.S. streets and highways in the course of a year,
according to a government study released Wednesday.
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey conducted in
late 2008 found that 20 percent of those 16 and older reported driving
within two hours of drinking alcohol.
Based on the survey results, NHTSA estimates that 8 percent of all
drivers, or 17.2 million people, have driven at least once over the
course of a year, even though they thought they were drunk.
Additionally, 8 percent said they got a ride from a driver they thought
was drunk. This was a particular problem for males between 21 and 24
years old. In this age group, 24 percent reported riding with a driver
they thought had consumed too much alcohol.
On the positive side, the message about the dangers of drunken driving
is widespread, with 81 percent of those surveyed seeing it as a serious
public safety threat.
"We have got to do more, as a country, to close the gap between
believing that drunk driving is a threat and actively doing something
about it," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said.
To warn motorists about the dangers of drunken driving, the government
is spending about $13 million for an advertising campaign to publicize
increased enforcement through Labor Day weekend.
NHSTA periodically conducts the National Survey of Drinking and Driving Attitudes and Behaviors.