A comparison of driver- and passenger-based estimates of alcohol-impaired driving

Am J Prev Med. 1999 May;16(4):283-8. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(98)00094-4.


Introduction: Persons who drive after drinking or ride with drinking drivers are at increased risk of motor vehicle crash. Although alcohol is involved in 40% of fatal motor vehicle crashes yearly, there exist few systems to monitor alcohol-impaired driving. In this study we compare driver- and passenger-based estimates of the prevalence of alcohol-impaired driving.

Design: A random-digit-dialing telephone survey of the United States. Participants were adults aged 18 or older who were English- or Spanish-speaking from 5238 households (response rate = 56.1%).

Results: From the 4603 respondents who reported driving in the preceding 30 days, we estimate that there were 126 million drinking-driving episodes in the United States in 1994. From the 4380 passengers in the preceding 30 days, we estimate 191 million episodes. Three percent of respondents self-reported as drinking drivers (4.8% of males and 1.3% of females) and 4.9% as passengers of drinking drivers. Drinking drivers were more likely to be passengers of drinking drivers (44% versus 4% of nondrinking drivers). Drinking drivers were also more than twice as likely to report drinking daily, and only one half as likely to report always wearing their safety belts.

Conclusion: Passengers who report riding with a drinking driver may provide an important estimate of the prevalence of drinking driving. Passengers of drinking drivers represent a high-risk group that is not considered in most prevention efforts. Because being a passenger of a drinking driver is not illegal, it may be an easier topic for clinicians to broach than drinking and driving.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / psychology
  • Automobile Driving / psychology
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Interviews as Topic / methods
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology