CHICAGO (Reuters) - More than 30 million Americans admit to drunken driving in the previous 12 months and more than 10 million say they drove while on illicit drugs, according to a survey of driving habits between 2006 and 2009.
While alarmingly high, the numbers reflect some progress in getting drunk or drugged drivers off the road, said the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which released the report on Thursday.
The researchers asked people whether they had used illicit drugs or alcohol while driving in the past 12 months.
Pooled survey data from 2006 to 2009 showed the average yearly rate of drunk driving fell to 13.2 percent compared with 14.6 percent in 2002 to 2005, according to the agency’s latest report.
Driving under the influence of drugs fell from 4.8 percent in the 2006-2009 period to 4.3 percent in the 2002-2005 period, the researchers said.
Younger drivers, those between 16 and 25, were more likely to admit they drove while under the influence of drugs or alcohol than older drivers, the report said.
Nearly 20 percent of drivers aged 16 to 25 said they drove drunk in the previous 12 months compared with 12 percent of those aged 26 or older.
And 11.4 percent of drivers aged 16 to 25 said they drove while on illicit drugs, compared with 2.8 percent of those aged 26 or older.
“The nation as a whole has seen reductions in the rates of drunk driving and drugged driving in recent years; however, each of these behaviors remains a serious problem in the United States,” the report reads.
“The prevalence of impaired driving, particularly among persons aged 16 to 25, points to the need for continued prevention efforts.”
The report said media campaigns, responsible alcohol sales and service training, sobriety checkpoints and substance abuse assessment and treatment all might help to reduce the incidence of impaired driving.