A new study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that driving while intoxicated, or “drunk driving,”  has decreased over the past decade.  The NHTSA's 2014 Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, released on Feb. 6, 2015, analyzed data from a specific roadside study conducted across America to conclude that the number of drivers with alcohol in their systems has decreased by more than thirty percent (30%) since 2007.

In its latest study of alcohol-related driving, NHTSA collected data by setting up 300 voluntary roadside survey sites across the country.  The agency paid drivers for their time participating in the study, and assured all participants that the data collected would be anonymous.  Additionally, researchers offered impaired drivers a ride home, or a hotel room for the night, without any legal charges or consequences.

The study’s results reported that during evening hours on weekends, 8.3 percent of drivers were found to have alcohol in their system, while 1.5 percent of the total tested participants had more than the legal limit.  Those figures reflect a decline of approximately 30 percent from a similar survey conducted in 2007.

Specific data points from the 2014 study are as follows:

  • The proportion of drivers with measurable alcohol levels declined by about 30 percent from 2007 to 2014. This decline was seen across all alcohol levels.
  • Since the first such survey in 1973, the prevalence of alcohol among drivers has declined by nearly 80 percent.
  • In 2014, about 1.5 percent of weekend nighttime drivers had .08 or higher breath alcohol concentrations (BACs).
  • About 8.3 percent of drivers had some measurable alcohol in their systems.

Critics of the NHTSA’s roadside studies argue that the data are skewed downward, because statistically random samples at roadside survey sites are collected voluntarily.  These critics argue that a driver who had been drinking alcohol will be unlikely or less likely to stop for a voluntary test, regardless of the pay or assurances of anonymity.

The agency counters, however, that similar tests have been conducted periodically since 1973, and that the same testing protocol has been in place and consistently applied over the past decade.  Consequently, with a long history of survey data collected under the same limitation, NHTSA contends it can reasonably and accurately compare trends over time.  The agency further reports that in four decades of surveying more than 30,000 participants, none drove away from the test sites after being identified as impaired, and none were arrested or suffered any legal consequences associated with their participation in the study.

Trade associations such as the national Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), have formal polices and longstanding commitments to working with government, private organizations, and individuals to prevent drunk driving.  These organizations and their industry members have invested in national advertising campaigns and hundreds of programmed initiatives to create awareness and education around solutions to help reduce incidents of intoxicated or drunk driving.

This article is published in the February 2015 issue of Fintech Focus.