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A new report by the Federal government says that the drunk driving rate in the United States has fallen to a 13-year low. However, there are numerous reasons to be skeptical of the figures that were reported in the study: Not only do the numbers come from a self-reported survey, but the stats deal with 2014 numbers, which are well behind the times.
The new study, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, tapped into survey numbers which asked drivers across the United States about operating under the influence (OUI). It found that, in 2014, 11.1% of American drivers aged 16 or older had driven under the influence of alcohol in the past year. Another 4.1% had said they’d driven under the influence of drugs.
The study made a point of showing that the percentage of drivers who admitted to driving drunk was the lowest since data started being collected in 2002.
However, the way the data was collected casts doubt on all of its conclusions. SAMHSA’s study utilized numbers taken from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). NSDUH’s survey, however, is fraught with complications.
Chief among the problems with the data collected by NSDUH is the fact that it was self-reported. When a government agency asks a random sampling of drivers if they have committed a crime in the past year, it should be expected that the numbers will be inaccurate. This is especially true when so many people nowadays distrust the government.
Another issue with the NSDUH data is that it asked people whether they’d driving while “under the influence” in the past year. What does that mean, though? It’s impossible to pinpoint your blood alcohol content (BAC) without taking a blood test. So when people respond to the survey, they’re doing little more than guessing whether they’ve driving under the influence in the past year.
Finally, the data that the SAMHSA study relied on was taken back in 2014. In the OUI world, that’s ancient history. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also compiles statistics about car accident fatalities, including those caused by OUI. They found that in 2015 – the year after the data used by SAMHSA – there was a 7.2% increase in the number of people who died in car crashes. This was the largest increase in nearly 50 years. Among these, alcohol-related fatalities increased by 3.2%, as well.
The trend that SAMHSA’s study found was thrown into doubt even before its findings were published.
Drunk driving advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are sure to lean heavily on these new statistics. However, it’s important to see statistics for what they are – mere attempts to collect data and find meaning in them. Here, the methods used by SAMHSA raise serious doubts about the accuracy of its findings. Any conclusions drawn from these stats are equally problematic.
If you’re been charged for OUI in the state of Maine, contact OUI-defense attorney William T. Bly online or at (207) 571-8146. His vigorous defense can protect your interests and avoid the costly penalties that come with an OUI conviction.
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