Conventional wisdom may hold that drunk drivers are habitual drinkers, but new research shows that people who get drunk only on occasion account for almost half of all DWI offenses. This latest study, published in a recent issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, draws its research data from the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey — a survey involving interviews with more than 350,000 adults living in the U.S. each year.
Researchers conducting the study reviewed the statistics regarding reports of driving while intoxicated and determined that 84% of drivers who drove while intoxicated in 2006 had been binge drinking, defined as quickly consuming four or more drinks in one sitting (among women) or five or more drinks (among men) — a number of drinks typically able to make a person legally drunk. Further, the researchers defined two types of drinkers — heavy drinkers (women who drink more than one drink a day and men who drink more than two), and non-heavy drinkers.
Binge drinkers who were also non-heavy drinkers made up 49 percent of those who drove while intoxicated — a higher number than many researchers initially suspected. The findings demonstrate that on average, half of all drunk drivers are not just slightly over the legal limit of impairment, but are inexperienced drinkers who have gotten seriously drunk before deciding to drive.
Authors of the study recommend that doctors should do more than simply ask if patients have a problem with alcohol, including asking specifically about the number of drinks they may consume on any one occasion and talking to patients about the consequences of binge drinking behavior.
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