October 4th, 2011
04:02 PM ET
Four million adults drove drunk last year, says a nationwide survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study estimates this population was responsible for 112 million separate alcohol-impaired driving episodes in 2010.
Of those incidents, four out of five drivers were men and 85% involved binge drinkers. In addition, young men under age 34 accounted for nearly a third of them. States in the Midwest had the highest numbers, including North Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri and Michigan.
"[They] put everyone on the road at risk," said CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. "In fact, nearly 11,000 people are killed every year in crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver."
Researchers say the number of episodes peaked in 2006 and decreased substantially, by almost a third, through 2010.
An episode was defined by a driver having blood alcohol concentrations of at least 0.08 %. That's about four drinks in one hour for a 160-pound man or three drinks over two hours for a 120-pound woman. Binge drinking was defined as consuming five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women during a short time frame.
Researchers also found that people who did not always wear a seatbelt were nearly four times as likely to report an episode as people who always wore seatbelts.
Frieden calls alcohol-impaired driving "far too common."
"Drunk driving is a public health problem with far-reaching effects," he said. "It puts everyone in danger, even the most responsible drivers and pedestrians."
The CDC suggests combating the problem through the use of sobriety checkpoints and ignition interlocks–which prevent previous offenders from drinking and driving.
Frieden notes that the study estimates are based on self-reported data.
"We know that people underreport the amount they drink...and therefore it's undoubtedly the case that they also underestimate the amount they drink and drive," he added.
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