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Drunk Driving Admitted by Estimated 17 Million, U.S. Agency Says

An estimated 17 million motorists may have driven while drunk in the preceding 12 months, according to a report U.S. regulators released as part of a crackdown tied to travel during the U.S. Labor Day holiday.

Eight percent of almost 7,000 U.S. drivers ages 16 and older responding to a 2008 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration telephone survey said they had driven when their blood-alcohol content was above the legal limit at least once in the previous year.

“Drunk driving is deadly, it’s against the law, and unfortunately, it’s still a problem,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement announcing the results.

The survey found 8 percent of the population, including 24 percent of men ages 21-24, reported riding with a driver they thought was drunk at least once in the past year.

In 2008, 31 percent of fatal car crashes, or 10,684 accidents, involved an alcohol-impaired driver, according to NHTSA data posted on its website.

The agency’s safety campaign tied to the Sept. 6 Labor Day holiday includes a $13 million television and radio advertising campaign.

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