Many wonder that if 30 million say they have driven while drunk, what might the true figure be. 10 million US adults admit to driving while under the influence of illegal drugs. According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) drink driving rates in some states exceeded 20%.

SAMHSA statistics indicate that 13.2% of Americans aged at least 16 years drove under the influence of alcohol over the last 12 months, and 4.3% did so while intoxicated with illegal drugs during the same period.

The report authors say variations from state-to-state are considerable. While states with the highest percentages of drunk driving include Wisconsin 23.7%, and North Dakota 22.4%, those with elevated drugged driving rates were led by Rhode Island 7.8% and Vermont 6.6%.

Utah and Mississippi have the lowest drunk driving rates in the USA.

Levels of drunk and drugged driving admitted by members of the public (self-reported) are:

  • Under the influence of alcohol – 16 to 25 year olds 19.5%
  • Under the influence of alcohol – 26 years or older 11.8%
  • Under the influence of illegal drugs – 16 to 25 year olds 11.4%
  • Under the influence of illegal drugs – 26 years or older 2.8%

However, drunk and/or drugged driving rates have been dropping over the last few years. Rates have dropped for drunk driving from 14.6% in the 2002-2005 period to 13.2% from 2006 to 2009. Drugged driving fell from 4.8% to 4.3% during the same period.

SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., said:

    “Thousands of people die each year as a result of drunk and drugged driving, and the lives of thousands of family members and friends left behind are forever scarred. Some progress has been made in reducing the levels of drunk and drugged driving through education, enhanced law enforcement and public outreach efforts. However, the nation must continue to work to prevent this menace and confront these dangerous drivers in an aggressive way.”

Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy,said:

    “While we have understood for some time the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol, much less is known or discussed about drivers under the influence of other drugs. This new data adds to other emerging research revealing that there is an alarmingly high percentage of Americans on our roadways with drugs in their system. At a time when drug use is on the rise, it is crucial that communities act today to address the threat of drugged driving as we work to employ more targeted enforcement and develop better tools to detect the presence of drugs among drivers.”

“The NSDUH Report – State Estimates of Drunk and Drugged Driving”

Written by Christian Nordqvist