More Drivers Admit to Driving Drunk, Survey Shows

Results from a second annual public opinion survey conducted by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation USA (TIRF USA) show that self-reported drunk driving increased substantially in 2016 compared to the previous year.

Of the 5,050 individuals surveyed by the online poll, 5.5% said they had driven impaired often or very often in 2016, compared to 4% in 2015. In addition, 11.7% of respondents said they had driven when they thought they were legally impaired at least once in the past year, compared to just 8% the previous year.

TIRF USA notes that a larger trend can’t be determined from two years of data. However, the survey results are especially concerning given the most recent statistics on drunk driving deaths. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that alcohol-related traffic fatalities increased 3.2% in 2015, to 10,265.

Most Common Reasons People Drink and Drive

Surveyed drivers reported they chose to get behind the wheel when they thought they were over the legal limit because they:

  1. Thought they were okay to drive (43.7%)
  2. Didn’t have very far to go (12.6%)
  3. Thought they could drive carefully (10.9%)

Of those surveyed, younger men and drivers who had received traffic tickets were more likely to drive when they thought they were under the influence.

Need for greater awareness and use of alternatives to drunk driving

Nearly all of those surveyed felt that having a designated driver when out drinking is important. Yet a fairly large percentage (19.3%) never use a designated driver, and only 18.7% say they use ride-sharing services. In addition, more people admitted to riding with a drunk driver in 2016 than the previous year (8.4% vs. 5.3%).

TIRF USA concluded that the survey shows a need to step-up “the effort to educate U.S. drivers about the risks of alcohol-impaired driving” and that “more focused strategies can encourage people to choose a safe ride home as an alternative to driving alcohol-impaired.”


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