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The prevalence of alcohol use disorders among night-time weekend drivers


Robert B. Voas, Impaired Driving Center, PIRE, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, 11720 Beltsville Drive, Suite 900, Calverton, MD 20705-3111, USA. E-mail:


Aims  The objective of this study was to establish the extent of alcohol use disorders (AUDs) among drivers at risk for alcohol-related crashes. The prevalence of drivers with AUDs on US roads on weekend evenings when alcohol-related crashes are most frequent is unknown. This study will inform laws and programs designed to reduce alcohol-involved crashes.

Design  Interviews using a 15-item AUD questionnaire with a stratified random sample of non-commercial drivers at 60 primary sampling locations in the 48 contiguous states on Fridays and Saturdays between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. from July to November 2007.

Setting  Off-road locations into which a police officer directed a random selection of motorist passing the site.

Participants  A total of 4614 drivers of non-commercial vehicles.

Measurements  AUDs, including heavy drinking, alcohol abuse, and alcohol dependence.

Findings  Of the participating drivers, 73.7% were current drinkers (reported drinking in the last year). Among those drinkers, 14% were classifiable either as dependent drinkers or as abusive drinkers based on self-reports of drinking. Another 10% of the drivers were classified as heavy drinkers. Nearly half of the drivers in the survey who had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or higher than the 0.08 g per deciliter legal limit fell into one of those three AUD categories.

Conclusions  Survey data suggest that the majority of high-blood alcohol concentration drivers on US roads show no clinical signs of an alcohol use disorder, but they are categorized as heavy drinkers. This suggests that environmental programs directed at reducing heavy drinking and brief behavioral interventions aimed at reducing episodes of excessive consumption have promise for reducing alcohol-related crashes.