Almost one in 11 people admit to driving legally intoxicated, says an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey reported by USA Today. A survey out last week from the U.S. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration’s found that 15 percent of drivers 18 and older said they had driven under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year. “It’s frightening,” says Aaron White of Duke University Medical Center, who studies drunken driving among young people. “If you’ve got 10% of the people saying I drove when I was over the legal limit, you’ve probably got another chunk of people that would say I drank and drove but I wasn’t over the limit.”
The most effective way to combat the nation’s lax attitudes is with mandatory ignition interlocks for anyone convicted of drunken driving, says Heidi Castle of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “People continue to drive drunk because they can, and ignition interlocks stop that,” she says. Peter Kissinger, CEO of AAA Foundation, says, “There is a sense that our elected officials don’t have the political courage to put known countermeasures into law. We’ve made wonderful progress, but there are still elected officials that get hung up on the issue of privacy and Big Brother looking over us.” Highway safety agencies and safe driving advocates have been stymied by their inability to further cut crash deaths involving drunken drivers, which have remained at about 32% of all fatalities for the past decade. “Drivers see traffic laws as guidance or suggestions, not as a law,” says Jonathan Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Association.