Survey: 17.2 Million Drunk Drivers Last Year

VIDEO: The government asked, and 17.2 million admit to driving drunk in the past year.

More than 17 million drivers admitted to driving drunk last year in a new survey released today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The results of the 2008 telephone survey, which was conducted among 6,999 respondents ages 16 and older, comes on the heels of the Department of Transportation's nationwide crackdown on drunk driving. The campaign -- called Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest -- will run through Labor Day and will be supported by $13 million in television and radio advertising from NHTSA.

But with new numbers showing that as many as eight percent of all drivers were drunk behind the wheel last year, officials are taking action.

"Drunk driving is deadly, it's against the law, and unfortunately, it's still a problem," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a press release today. "With the help of law enforcement around the country, we are going to continue doing all that we can to stop drunk driving and the needless tragedies that result from this reckless behavior."

Although males overall are more likely to drive drunk, the survey found that men were also more likely to look for another way home, whereas women still tended to pick up their keys. Moreover, eight percent of those surveyed admitted to getting a ride from a driver they thought was intoxicated.

But the most startling figure shows that the youngest among the respondents, those between the ages of 16 and 20, had as many as six drinks before driving.

Nevertheless, 81 percent of respondents said they saw drunk driving as a serious public safety threat.

"Our message is loud and clear," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland in a press release. "If you drive drunk, you will be arrested and prosecuted. There will be no exceptions and no excuses. And if you're below the age of 21, there is zero tolerance for any alcohol in your system whatsoever. That's why we're out there with law enforcement, tackling this major safety issue head on."

The most dangerous time on the road is between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., and the safest days are Monday through Friday afternoon. New Years Day is considered to be the deadliest day of the year for drunk driving accidents followed by July 4.

NHSTA last conducted a survey about this issue in 2004.

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