Driving under influence on decline
HHS: Down 15 percent from 2002
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.