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DUI Rates Decreasing Among U.S. Drivers: Study

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Fewer Americans are driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, according to a new government survey. However, the number of self-reported impaired driving instances still remains in the tens of millions every year. 

The new data was released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on December 27, indicating a nearly 4.5 percent decrease in self-reported impaired driving incidents in 2014 when compared to previous surveys.

While the overall number of drivers reportedly driving drunk or high decreased, rates among minors increased.

“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,” Frances Harding, Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, said in a press release. “We must strive to save lives by reducing this public health threat through education, prevention, and all other possible measures.”

SAMHSA collected data through the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which is a national and state-level survey to collect data on the use of tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, including non-medical use of prescription drugs, and mental health in the United States.

About 27.7 million Americans aged 16 or older reported driving under the influence of alcohol or some form of illegal substance in 2014, according to the data. The report indicates that just over 10 million, or roughly 4.1 percent of participants, reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs; and 5.9 million Americans, or roughly 2.5 percent, reported driving under the influence of both alcohol and some form of illicit drug at the same time in 2014.

The age range data collected among the study indicates that younger drivers are more inclined to drive while under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs. Researchers found that drinking and driving was most common among drivers beginning at the age of 16 and peaked ranging from the age of 21 to 29. On the opposite end of the scale those over the age of 30 were shown to be less likely to drive under the influence, with only about four percent of reports among people age 65 and older.

SAMHSA reports that males were significantly more likely than females to report driving under the influence, and more likely to have driven under the influence of both.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recognizes drinking and driving as one of the key reasons for many traffic fatalities. According to NHTSA data, alcohol related crashes contributed to nearly one third of traffic fatalities in 2014.

According to the NHTSA, traffic related fatalities have been on a steady increase for the last several years with distracted and impaired driving being the cause for many. In 2015 alone more than 10,200 motorists were killed in alcohol related crashes resulting in $52 billion in damages. The data indicates that of the 2015 deaths, 181 of the fatalities were children under the age of 14 years old.

A person in the United States is killed every 53 minutes by an impaired motorist, according to the NHTSA. Despite several decades of recorded decreases in alcohol related traffic fatalities, the chance of being in an alcohol-related crash is still one in three over the course of a lifetime.

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