Drivers are advised not to drink and drive but it appears that even those who are sober behind the wheel should still observe caution as researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that many Americans break the law when it comes to drunk driving.
In the new study published in the Aug. 7 issue of CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), researchers revealed that about 4.2 million people drive intoxicated at least once over the past month, which is equivalent to millions of episodes of drunk driving per year.
The researchers looked at the results of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, which asked respondents about their risk taking behavior. The data revealed that about 1.8 percent of the population in the U.S., or about 4.2 individuals, drove drunk the month prior to the survey.
The researchers said that this translated to 121 million drunk-driving instances nationwide over a period of one year.
The research also noted that alcohol-impaired driving crashes make up about a third of crash fatalities in the U.S. In 2013, more than 10,000 individuals died in accidents wherein the blood alcohol concentration of at least one driver is at least 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL), the legal limit for U.S. drivers.
The average drunk driver was found to be a young male between the ages of 21 to 34 years old, who have binge-drinking problems with the researchers reporting that these individuals make up a third of all drunk driving episodes.
Pattern also appears when it comes to gender with men responsible for four out of five drunk-driving incidents.
Those who reported of driving intoxicated also tend to be associated with other types of risky behaviors including binge drinking and failing to wear seatbelts at times.
About 85 percent of those driving under the influence binge drink and those who do not always wear their seatbelts drive drunk about three times as often as those who always wear their seatbelts prompting the researchers to suggest that every state should adopt primary seat belt laws, which would allow law enforcers to ticket a driver or passenger for failing to buckle up even without incurring other traffic offenses.
"In addition, consistent seat belt use was especially low among alcohol-impaired drivers living in states with a secondary seat belt law," wrote study researcher Amy Jewett, from the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention at CDC, and colleagues. "Taken together, these findings suggest that fatalities among alcohol-impaired drivers could be substantially reduced if every state had a primary seat belt law."
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