Drunk and Drugged Drivers tops 20 Percent in some States

New data shows, in the last year, the number of drunk or drugged drivers topped 20 percent in some states. The findings, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), revealed 4.3 percent of individuals over age 16 drove under the influence of non-prescribed drugs in the past year and 13.2 percent drove under the influence of alcohol.

Number of Impaired Drivers Varies by State
Some states  fared worse than others when it came to the number of impaired drivers on the road. Wisconsin and North Dakota had the highest number of drunk drivers - 23.7 and 22.4 percent respectively. The highest number of drugged drivers were found in Rhode Island (7.8%) and Vermont (6.6%).

Utah and Mississippi had the fewest number of drunk drivers and Iowa and New Jersey had lower numbers of drivers under the influence of illicit drugs.

The 16 to 25 age group were most inclined to drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Started at age 26 the rates were much lower.

Even though the statistics seem bleak, the study showed drunk driving has declined in the past few years, from 14.6 percent to 13.2 percent. Driving under the influence of drugs has declined from 4.8 percent to 4.3 percent.

“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,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “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.”

Data for the study comes from National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) that includes responses 423,000 respondents aged 16 or over, collected 2002 to 2005 and 2006 to 2009.

Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy says, “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 new findings show there are about 40 million Americans who admit to driving while impaired each year.