More than one in 10 people who binge drinks gets behind the wheel of a car during or just after their binge. Of those who binge and drive afterward, more than half had consumed their liquor in a bar, restaurant or club.
“Drinking in bars and clubs is a huge independent factor in binge drinking,” said lead study author Timothy Naimi, M.D. “This study marks a failure of public health in the U.S., and one that is notable for the lack of will and resources devoted to enforcing even existing laws and alcohol control policies.”
These findings come from a study appearing online and in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at data from a CDC telephone survey conducted in 2003 and 2004. More than 14,000 adults reported having more than five drinks during a single drinking session — the definition of a binge — in the previous 30 days.
The study ties drinking patterns to subsequent driving explicitly. “People think of impaired driving as a driving problem when it is as much a drinking problem as a driving problem,” said Naimi, M.D., a physician with the CDC’s Alcohol Team.
Forty-eight states have laws preventing the sale of more alcohol to someone who obviously is intoxicated, Naimi said. Yet the respondents had an average of eight drinks at a time; more than a quarter had 10 or more.
“Many of these folks were demonstrably hammered, yet got served more alcohol — at a terrible cost to society,” he said. “This study highlights alcohol-service activity that is clearly irresponsible and that places law-abiding establishments at a competitive disadvantage.”
“This study confirms what others would have predicted, but in a much stronger way than ever before,” said David Jernigan, Ph.D., an associate professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. All states should have strong laws making a licensed establishment that serves liquor to obviously intoxicated patrons liable for their subsequent actions, he said, but not all do. Bartenders and waiters must undergo training to spot intoxication, he added.
- Naimi TS, Nelson TD, Brewer RD. Driving after binge drinking. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2009; 37 (4)
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