By presidential proclamation, December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. This month seems particularly suited to this observation because traffic fatalities that involve impaired drivers increase significantly during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday periods.[i] But impaired driving is a roadway hazard that exists throughout the year. In 2009, nearly 11,000 people were killed in crashes involving impaired drivers[ii]—or about one death every 49 minutes. As a Nation, as communities, and as individuals, we need to take stronger action to help ensure that our roads and those who drive on them remain safe throughout the holidays and every day.
In an average year, 30 million Americans drive drunk, and 10 million Americans drive drugged. SAMHSA’s new survey on impaired driving, State Estimates of Drunk and Drugged Driving, found that nationally 13.2 percent of all people aged 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol and 4.3 percent drove under the influence of illicit drugs during the past year. Some States recorded rates of drunk driving higher than 20 percent.
Furthermore, rates of impaired driving differed dramatically by age. While 11.8 percent of people aged 26 and older drove drunk, 19.5 percent of people aged 16 to 25 drove drunk. While 2.8 percent of the older group drove drugged, 11.4 percent of younger drivers did so.
President Barack Obama has made combating drugged driving a priority of drug control and has set a national goal of reducing drugged driving prevalence by 10 percent by 2015. To help achieve this goal, SAMHSA is working with the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the National Institute of Drug Abuse to develop standard screening methods to help detect the presence of drugs among drivers. SAMHSA also is advancing its primary strategic initiative: to prevent substance abuse and mental illnesses by creating prevention-prepared communities that can reduce the likelihood of these often-related problems and their consequences.
In issuing his proclamation, President Obama asked all Americans “to recommit to preventing the loss of life by practicing safe driving practices and reminding others to be sober, drug free, and safe on the road.” Talk openly about this issue and set a good example for others, especially young people, by making “one for the road” a nonalcoholic beverage. For evidence-based approaches on preventing underage drinking, visit the Too Smart To Start and Stop Underage Drinking Portal of Federal Resources Web sites.
SAMHSA wishes a safe and healthy new year in 2011 to all.
[i] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2007). Fatalities related to alcohol-impaired driving during the Christmas and New Year’s Day holiday periods. Traffic Safety Facts. From
http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810870.PDF (accessed December 16, 2010).
[ii] National Criminal Justice Reference Service, U.S. Department of Justice. (2010). Impaired driving. From http://www.ncjrs.gov/impaireddriving (accessed December 16, 2010).