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Drunk Driving Increasing Concern Worldwide

A survey of 178 countries finds 30 to 40 percent of road deaths are caused by alcohol. Experts from the World Health Organization say drunk driving is more than just a law enforcement issue. It is also a public health concern and a global and domestic trend. Lawmakers are trying to reduce the number of alcohol related deaths on the roads.

Laura Dean-Mooney survived a wife's worst nightmare. 18 years ago, a drunk driver killed her husband. They were married for only two and a half years. "I was left with an 8 1/2 month old baby to raise by myself," she recalls.

The drunk driver was also killed in the crash.

"You never get closure," Mooney says. "My belief is you get through it. And you have a choice to be bitter or better."

Mooney chose to be better by working for Mothers Against Drunk Driving or MADD, an organization that aims to reduce the number of drunks on the roads.

"I didn't want to have any other widow to go through what I've gone through, or any other children lose their father or their parent in a drunk driving crash," says Mooney.

According to MADD, nearly 12,000 people die on the road every year in the U.S. because a driver has been drinking. That's a 40 percent drop since the 1980s. Mooney attributes the fewer deaths to better police enforcement. But drunk drivers continue to be a threat on the roads.

In the United States there are still more men than women who have been caught drunk behind the wheel. But in the last 10 years, the number of women who have been arrested for drunk driving has increased by up to 30 percent.

"What you're hearing more is that women are under more pressure. They're now perhaps the bread winner with the unemployment rate. TV shows are now making it hip or cool to be a mom that stays home and drinks," Mooney said.

Dr. Alberto Concha-Eastman of the Pan American Health Organization says the increase in female drunk drivers in the U.S. reflects a similar global trend. He says most of the 30-40 percent of road deaths related to alcohol use are caused by young men and women.

"When we are young we think nothing is going to happen to us," he says. "We don't take this type of advice very seriously."

To fight the threat of drunk driving, Concha-Eastman says the World Health Organization is asking nations to educate their citizens and increase police enforcement.

"In countries where this problem happens it's where law enforcement is not fully applied," Concha-Eastman says. He adds, increasing the price of alcohol and limiting where and when alcohol is sold could also reduce the number of people who drink and drive.