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Study: Nearly One In Ten Drove Drunk In The Past Year

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U.S. Navy drunk driving deterrence display

U.S. Navy drunk driving deterrence display

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One in five Americans admits to drinking and driving, while eight percent—as many as 17 million people—have driven drunk in the past year.

The new results, gathered for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and U.S. DOT, were released today as part of a law-enforcement crackdown that runs through the Labor Day weekend, as well as a NHTSA TV and radio ad campaign.

According to the new research—via a survey conducted in 2008 of 6,999 respondents, oversampling those age 16 to 24—about one in five Americans have, in the past year, driven within two hours of drinking alcohol and 13 percent had done so in the past 30 days. Meanwhile, four out of five Americans regard drunk driving as a "major threat" to their own and their family's safety.

Some of the information gleaned by the study of young drivers was particularly alarming. Although few ages 16-20 admitted to driving after drinking, those who reported drinking said that they had consumed nearly six drinks in a sitting; the agency is concerned that this translates to more severe consequences when drinking and driving are combined. And eight percent of those 16 and older, according to the survey, just over the past year rode with a driver who they thought had consumed to much alcohol to drive safely.

Drinking and driving is especially rampant among young males. While about one percent of the overall population 16 and older has been arrested for drinking and driving over the past two years, five percent of those age 21 through 24 have.

'How Drunk Am I?' iPhone app

'How Drunk Am I?' iPhone app

So-called "problem drinkers" made up 36 percent of past-month drinking and driving trips, estimated NHTSA; these drivers were twice as likely to have thought they'd been over the legal limit while driving sometime over the past year.

“Our message is loud and clear. If you drive drunk you will be arrested and prosecuted. There will be no exceptions and no excuses," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "And if you’re below the age of 21, there is zero tolerance for any alcohol in your system whatsoever. That’s why we’re out there with law enforcement, tackling this major safety issue head on.”

Remember this whenever you're heading out to celebrate, and keep an eye on your friends and family during next week's holiday weekend.

[U.S. Department of Transportation, via Consumer Reports Cars Blog]

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