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Motorist poll: 96 percent say alcohol, driving don't mix, a fifth do it anyway

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“Do as I say, not as I do,” is the prevailing mindset among motorists when it comes to intoxicated driving. The annual American Automobile Association (AAA) survey, The 2013 Traffic Safety Culture Index, was released online Dec. 17. In it, one in five U.S. motorists who drink say they’ve driven at least once in the past year when they thought their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) might have been close to or above the .08 legal limit.

About 19.5 percent said they took the wheel impaired, according to a statement from AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety. The percentage is up over the prior two surveys, and contradicts another AAA finding that 96 percent of drivers believe it’s somewhat or completely unacceptable for people to drive when they think they might have had too much to drink.

Intoxicated driving – or drunk driving – killed 10,322 in 2012 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA figures also represent a year-over-year increase. (See related Impaired Driving Awareness Month article)

The AAA survey also showed that two thirds of respondents are in favor of requiring new cars to have built-in devices that would test drivers to make sure they are sober before the ignition starts. Similar technology is in use today to monitor those with intoxicated driving arrests and people abstaining due to the disease of alcoholism. About 63 percent approve of lowering the legal BAC limit to .05 from .08. Both measures were among 20 recommendations in a May 2013 report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on how to reduce or eliminate drinking and driving deaths.

AAA advises drinkers to stay overnight, designate a sober driver or use public transportation or a taxi rather than get behind the wheel impaired. One out of 10 arrests for all crimes in the U.S. were for Operating While Impaired (OWI), accounting for one out of every 80 licensed drivers. The AAA also revealed its estimate for 2013 year-end holiday travel is 94.5 million travelers, an increase for the fifth consecutive year. The holiday travel season is when alcohol-related travel deaths peak at an average of 48 per day. The average for the entire year is 25 per day.

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