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Survey shows declining numbers of impaired drivers

California drivers could be sharing the roads with fewer drunk drivers than in the past, according to survey data. A national survey for 2014 showed a record low number of drunk drivers across the country. The survey has shown decreasing numbers of drunk drivers since 2002, but the data is dependent on the honest and accurate responses of the people who take part.

In contrast, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's numbers showed an increase in drunk driving fatalities in 2015 from the previous year. But there were also more miles driven by Americans that year. When doing the math with number of miles driven factored in, the drunk driving fatality rate actually fell in 2015.

There are undoubtedly many ways to measure the problem of drunk driving, but it is certain that it remains a problem and continues to take many lives and have negative impacts on many others. The survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2014 showed that 11.1 percent of Americans 16 years of age or older said they had driven while under the influence of alcohol in the preceding 12 months. That figure was 15.3 percent in 2002. Experts are not sure why impaired driving rates have gone down, but believe it could be due to a combination of awareness campaigns, tougher laws and technology like interlock ignition symptoms that prevent a convicted drunk driver from starting their car if they fail a breath test.

Drunk driving is a criminal offense and carries stiff penalties. Breath or blood tests for alcohol content are sometimes confusing to drivers. Under California law, having a driver's license means implied consent to take any sobriety test when asked to. Refusing to take a test results in an automatic driver's license suspension. Failing a test, however, is not automatic proof of guilt, and test results can be challenged in court by an experienced attorney.

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