— With the holiday party season in full swing and New Year's Eve approaching, a new poll released on December 21 by the legal Web site FindLaw.com finds that 20 percent of Americans say they have driven after drinking within the past year.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 410 people will die in traffic accidents during the upcoming New Year's holiday period. In addition, fatal accidents during the New Year's holiday period are 40-percent more likely than non-holiday days to involve at least one alcohol-impaired driver.
One in five American adults admits to driving after drinking within the past year, according to the FindLaw.com survey. Most of those who said they had driven after drinking consumed one or two drinks prior to driving. Only 3 percent of those surveyed said they had driven within the past year after consuming three or more drinks. The survey interviewed 1,000 adults nationwide, with results accurate to plus or minus 3 percent.
The FindLaw.com survey found that driving after drinking tends not to be a one-time event. Half of the people who said they had driven after drinking within the past year did so three or more times.
Men were much more likely than women to say they have driven after drinking within the past year. Twenty-six percent of men said they had driven after drinking in the last year, compared with only 16 percent of women.
Two-thirds of those surveyed (67 percent) said they have never driven after drinking. Seventy-one percent of women said they have never driven after drinking, compared with 61 percent of men.
The FindLaw.com survey produced the following results among American adults:
Have driven in the past year after three or more drinks – 3 percent
Have driven in the past year after one or two drinks – 17 percent
Have not driven after drinking in the past year – 12 percent
Have never driven after drinking – 67 percent
While most Americans likely are aware of the personal dangers involved, drinking and driving laws vary widely from state to state, creating confusion about individuals' legal rights. Most states prohibit a person from driving a motor vehicle if the person has a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, usually either 0.10 or 0.08 percent. In addition, some states have created lesser offenses, such as "driving while impaired," defined as a blood alcohol level of 0.07 percent or higher. Other states have enacted enhanced penalties for blood alcohol readings of 0.20 percent or higher.
Detailed information on laws regarding drinking and driving in all 50 states can be found at legal information Web sites, such as FindLaw.com (dui.findlaw/).The site also features an online lawyer directory, with more than one million attorney listings, searchable by practice area and location. Users can find attorneys in their area experienced with their particular state's drinking and driving laws.