Page last updated: July 10, 2018

Alcohol-impaired driving in US counties, 2002-2012

Excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol-impaired driving remain significant public health problems, leading to considerable morbidity and mortality, particularly among younger populations in the United States.

Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), researchers employed a small areas modeling strategy to estimate the county-level annual prevalence of alcohol-impaired driving in every United States county for the years 2002 through 2012, the latest year in which county identifiers were publicly available.

Alcohol-impaired driving episodes declined from 157.0 million in 2002 (prevalence 3.8%: 95% uncertainty interval [UI], 3.7%-4.0%) to 129.7 million in 2012 (prevalence 3.7%: 95% UI, 3.5%-3.8%), a 17.4% decline. There is considerable variation in the prevalence of alcohol-impaired driving at the county level, ranging from 2.0% in the Sitka City Borough of Alaska to 9.3% in Nance County, Nebraska. Clusters of increased alcohol-impaired driving were observed in Northern Wisconsin (Marinette, Florence, Forest, Vilas, Oneida, Iron counties), North Dakota (Cavalier, Pembina, Walsh, Ramsey, Nelson, Benson, Eddy counties) and Montana (Sheridan, Daniels, Roosevelt, Valley, Phillips, Petroleum, Garfield counties).

This study showed guarded progress with respect to the occurrence of alcohol-impaired driving episodes in the US from 2002 to 2012. The authors warn that because these data relies on self-report, this likely represents an underestimate of the true prevalence of alcohol-impaired driving in the US. As the US continues to have several million episodes of alcoholimpaired driving each month, renewed efforts are needed to mitigate this high-risk health behaviour, they argue.

Source: Alcohol-impaired driving in US counties, 2002– 2012. Jacob E. Sunshine, Laura Dwyer-Lindgren, Alan Chen, Sam R. Sharar, Erin B. Palmisano, Eileen M. Bulger and Ali H. Mokdad. Population Health Metrics Advancing 2018
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