How many American drunk drivers are there? It’s a tricky question to answer, since we usually hear only about the ones who are arrested. There are many more who don’t make it into the news, even though they are guilty of the same crime.
The Centers for Disease Control did a survey to find out how many adults admitted to driving drunk during a given month. The answer was chilling: an estimated 4.2 million adults said they had driven while impaired by alcohol. Multiply that by 12, and you get 121 million episodes of drunk driving each year.
That doesn’t give us the number of people who drive drunk – many of those episodes will be repeats by the same drivers. A more conservative, but still chilling, estimate was proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in a survey they did. They found that 8 percent of drivers, or 17 million Americans, admitted to driving under the influence that year (2008).
Country of the Drunk Drivers
If all American drunk drivers – those who admitted to NHTSA that they drove impaired – were given their own country to live in, what would it look like? For one thing, the population would larger than quite a few countries, among them Belgium, Greece, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Portugal, and Sweden.
It would not only be large, it would be dangerous. On any particular day, 46,500 people would be driving drunk.
Here’s the strange thing: about 80 percent of females and three-quarters of males in that fully-drunk-driving population thought that driving under the influence was a threat to their safety and the safety of others. But that didn’t stop them from doing it.
And why do fewer males believe that drunk driving is dangerous?
Of course, there is no country of drunk drivers – those 17 million people are scattered all over the United States. Most of them get away with their crime – at least for a while – but a still-staggering number cause injury and death, and still more are arrested before they have a chance to do harm. We have to deal with them in our country, by catching them, punishing them, preventing further offenses with ignition interlocks, and when possible, by educating them to choose alternatives like designated drivers.
But the best thing we can all do for the Country of Drunk Drivers is not to visit it – ever.