“Thousands of people die each year as due to drunk and drugged driving. The lives of thousands of family members and friends left behind are forever scarred,” said Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administrator (SAMHSA) Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “Some progress has been made in reducing the levels of drunk and drugged driving through education, enhanced law enforcement and public outreach efforts. However, the nation must continue to work to prevent this menace and confront these dangerous drivers in an aggressive way.” Alcohol-related traffic fatalities have been on the decline in recent years, but there are still more alcohol-related traffic fatalities during the holiday season than any other time of the year. More fatal drunken driving crashes occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve than at any other time of the year. The actual penalties for drunk driving vary widely from state to state, but in every jurisdiction, if you are convicted of driving while intoxicated, you will pay a fine and/or have your driver’s license suspended or revoked. Despite all warnings, people will still get behind the wheel while intoxicated. A new survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that on average 13.2 percent of all persons 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol and 4.3 percent of this age group drove under the influence of illicit drugs in the past year. Levels of self-reported drunk and drugged driving differed dramatically among age groups. Younger drivers aged 16 to 25 had a much higher rate of drunk driving than those aged 26 or older (19.5 percent versus 11.8 percent). Similarly people aged 16 to 25 had a much higher rate of driving under the influence of illicit drugs than those aged 26 or older (11.4 percent versus 2.8 percent). This is a positive move for people 26 and over. A bright spot in the survey is that there has been a reduction in the rate of drunk and drugged driving in the past few years. Survey taken from 2002 through 2005 combined when compared to data gathered from 2006 to 2009 combined indicate that the average yearly rate of drunk driving has declined from 14.6 percent to 13.2 percent, while the average yearly rate of drugged driving has decreased from 4.8 percent to 4.3 percent. Twelve states have seen reductions in the levels of drunk driving and seven states have experienced lower levels of drugged driving. However according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) census, one in three motor vehicle fatalities (33 percent) with known drug test results tested positive for drugs in 2009. State Estimates of Drunk and Drugged Driving is based on the combined data from the 2002 to 2005 and 2006 to 2009 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and involve responses from more than 423,000 respondents aged 16 or over. NSDUH is a primary source of information on national and state-level use of tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs (including non-medical use of prescription drugs) and mental health in the United States. The survey is part of the agency’s strategic initiative on behavioral health data, quality and outcomes. A copy of the report is accessible at: https://oas.samhsa.gov/2k10/205/DruggedDriving.cfm . Please be sensible this holiday season. Don’t let yourself or a loved one become another statistic. Make safety a priority this holiday season. If you plan to attend a party away from home be sure to appoint a designated driver for the car. Whatever you do, don’t get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking. If you host a party, set rules on drinking and driving; appoint designated drivers or utilize and designated driver service. You can also help prevent injuries and/or deaths by notifying authorities when you witness someone driving erratically (remember to pull over before using your mobile phone); educate your loved ones about the risks of drinking and driving. Have a safe and sober holiday season.