Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Twelve-Month Prevalence and Changes in Driving after Drinking: United States, 1991-1992 and 2001-2002

Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Twelve-Month Prevalence and Changes in Driving after Drinking: United States, 1991-1992 and 2001-2002

Article excerpt

Background: Drinking and driving has been identified as one of the most important contributors of motor vehicle fatalities. This paper addressed the existing gap in our public health knowledge regarding the current prevalence of driving after drinking and how this has changed over the past decade. Methods: Prevalence rates of drinking and driving in 2001-2002, and changes in those prevalence rates between 1991-1992 and 2001-2002, were examined in two large nationally representative surveys of the U.S. population. Results: Overall, the prevalence of driving after drinking was 2.9 percent in 2001-2002, representing approximately six million U.S. adults. This rate was about three-quarters of the rate observed in 1991-1992 (3.7 percent), reflecting a 22-percent reduction. Generally, the male-female differentials in the rate of driving after drinking decreased over the past decade. However, the sex ratios increased substantially for underaged youth over the past decade, reflecting the sharp decrease in prevalence of driving after drinking among 18- to 20-year-old women. Constant and emerging subgroups at high risk for drinking and driving included Whites, Native Americans, males, underaged young adults, and 21- to 25-year-olds. Conclusions: The results of this study highlighted the need to continue to monitor prevalence and changes in driving after drinking. Results are discussed in the context of strengthening existing prevention and intervention efforts and developing new programs with the sociodemographic differentials observed in this study in mind. KEY WORDS: Alcohol-impaired driving; Drinking and driving; Sociodemographic characteristics; High risk subgroups; Changes in drinking and driving

INTRODUCTION

Road traffic injuries and fatalities are a global problem affecting all sectors of society. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicted that 1.39 million people would die in road traffic crashes in 2000 and that 2.34 million people will die in 2020 (Murray and Lopez, 1996). Among them, more than 50 percent of traffic fatalities occurred among young to middle-aged adults ages 15-44. In 2000, road traffic crashes ranked as the ninth leading cause of mortality and morbidity, accounting for 2.8 percent of all global deaths and disability. WHO's projections suggest that by 2020, road traffic injuries could rank third among all causes of death and disability worldwide (WHO, 2003).

The practice of drinking and driving has been consistently identified as one of the strongest predictors of motor vehicle fatalities worldwide (WHO, 2003). In the United States, approximately 40 percent of all motor vehicle-related deaths are attributed to alcohol each year (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA], 1995). In the year 2001 alone there were over 16,000 alcohol-related fatalities and 275,000 alcohol-related injuries as a result of motor vehicle crashes (NHTSA, 2002), Accordingly, the consequences of drinking and driving have received wide media coverage and intense attention from public policy makers, and the practice of drinking-driving has been studied using a variety of data sources.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintains the Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS), which collects detailed information for every fatal traffic crash occurring in the United States. Yearly data are released for public use by the following year and have been used to identify demographic and drinking characteristics associated with a high risk of fatal injuries (e.g., Kennedy et al., 1996). FARS data have also been studied in conjunction with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) data collected in a series of national roadside surveys. Using such an approach, Lund and Wolfe (1988, 1991) and Zador (1991) reported that each 0.02-percent increase in the driver's non-zero BAC nearly doubled the risk of being involved in a fatal crash. In addition, the 1973, 1986, and 1996 national roadside surveys indicated the prevalence of drinking drivers (BAC [greater than or equal to] 0. …

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