Driv­ing un­der in­flu­ence on de­cline

HHS: Down 15 per­cent from 2002

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY TOM HOWELL JR.

The share of Amer­i­cans driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence is steadily de­clin­ing, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment said Tues­day in a re­port that nonethe­less finds tens of mil­lions of adults still get be­hind the wheel af­ter us­ing drugs or al­co­hol.

Roughly 11 per­cent of Amer­i­cans drove while in­tox­i­cated from al­co­hol in 2014, down from more than 15 per­cent in 2002, with the sharpest de­cline oc­cur­ring among young adults.

Yet in raw num­bers, 30 mil­lion Amer­i­cans age 16 or older said they drove un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol that year, and 10 mil­lion drove af­ter us­ing il­licit drugs.

About 6 mil­lion drove un­der the in­flu­ence of both sub­stances, ac­cord­ing to the re­port by sub­stance abuse arm of the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Depart­ment.

“Al­though it is heart­en­ing to see a down­ward trend in lev­els of driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol, it still kills thou­sands of peo­ple each year and shat­ters the lives of friends and loved ones left be­hind,” said Frances Hard­ing, di­rec­tor of HHS’s sub­stance abuse divi­sion. “We must strive to save lives by re­duc­ing this pub­lic health threat through ed­u­ca­tion, pre­ven­tion, and all other pos­si­ble mea­sures.”

Al­co­hol-re­lated fa­tal­i­ties ac­counted for nearly a third — 31 per­cent — of all traf­fic deaths in 2014, or an av­er­age of one such death ev­ery 53 min­utes in the U.S.

Also more than 1 mil­lion peo­ple are ar­rested each year for driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol or drugs, HHS said.

While the share of peo­ple driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol in 2014 was lower than in each year of the pre­ced­ing decade, the share of driv­ers un­der the in­flu­ence of drugs — about 4 per­cent — was both bet­ter and worse than spe­cific years.

The White House’s Of­fice of Na­tional Drug Con­trol Pol­icy has said that “pre­vent­ing drugged driv­ing must be­come a na­tional pri­or­ity on par with pre­vent­ing drunk driv­ing.”

Bro­ken down by age, the share of those driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol in 2014 rose from just 2 per­cent of 16-yearolds to nearly 20 per­cent of those in their early 20s, be­fore steady de­clin­ing among older groups.

Driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of drugs showed a sim­i­lar curve, though peaked a year ear­lier — at age 20 — than those who drove while in­tox­i­cated by al­co­hol alone.

A much greater share of men tended to drive un­der the in­flu­ence than women — nearly 15 per­cent com­pared to 8 per­cent for al­co­hol, and nearly 6 per­cent ver­sus 2.5 per­cent for drugs.

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