CDC study found almost half just occasionally had too much
THURSDAY, April 3 (HealthDay News) -- It's easy to assume that drunk drivers are habitual drinkers, but new research suggests that people who only get drunk occasionally account for almost half of those who drive while intoxicated.
When it comes to drunk driving, "you have to worry about more than just alcoholics," said study author Dr. Nicole T. Flowers, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "You have to worry about people who consider themselves occasional drinkers or social drinkers."
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, an estimated 17,602 Americans died in alcohol-related traffic crashes in 2006, accounting for about four out of every 10 traffic deaths. An estimated 13,470 of the deaths involved a legally drunk driver with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or above.
In the new study, published in the April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, Flowers and her colleagues examined the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. More than 350,000 adults in the United States and its territories are interviewed as part of the survey each year.
The researchers looked at the statistics regarding reports of driving while intoxicated. They found that 84 percent of drivers who drove while intoxicated had been binge drinking, defined as downing four or more drinks in one sitting (among women) or five or more drinks (among men).
That many drinks is typically enough to make a person legally drunk.
The researchers narrowed the drinking categories further by defining two types of drinkers -- heavy drinkers (women who drink more than one drink a day and men who drink more than two) and non-heavy drinkers.
Binge drinkers who weren't heavy drinkers made up 49 percent of those who drove while intoxicated. This number was surprisingly high, Flower
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