As many as 17 million people — 8 percent of all U.S. drivers — drive drunk annually, according to new survey data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The figures were released Wednesday, the same day the U.S. Department of Transportation kicked off its annual $13 million advertising campaign to get drunk drivers off the road.
NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said he was particularly concerned by the heavy drinking among some young male drivers. Very few of those drivers, ranging in age from 16 to 20, admitted to drinking and driving, but those who did said they consumed nearly six alcoholic drinks at a time.
Survey results also showed that 8 percent of respondents over age 16 had gotten in the car with someone they believed had drunk too much to drive safely.
According to the safety agency’s data, people who admitted to drinking and driving tended to be more frequent drinkers. In all, 28 percent of that group said they drank booze three or more days a week.
Nearly 7,000 people over 16 responded to the survey, which was conducted in 2008.