Good News: Drinking and Driving by Young People Declines

Bad News: Auto Accidents Remain Their Number One Killer

A study released last week shows a promising trend. Between 2002 and 2014, drinking and driving declined by 59 percent among 16 to 20 year-olds and by 38 percent for 21 to 25 year-old adults. There is still much work to be done, but this decline is encouraging. 

The study was published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The data was taken from the responses of 380,000 young people who participated in an annual government-sponsored survey, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. At in-person interviews, respondents were asked about their use of alcohol and drugs during the previous 12-month period.

In addition to the decline in drinking alcohol and driving, fewer young people are also smoking marijuana before driving. 

What Works to Prevent Drunk Driving?

The author of the study attributed the dramatic drop to

  • The decline in drinking alcohol among young people generally
  • More aggressive law enforcement like roadside sobriety tests
  • High level of prevention efforts at schools nationwide

The CDC also makes these suggestions to decrease teen driving deaths:

  • Enforcement of 21 year-old minimum age for buying alcohol
  • Zero tolerance laws that make driving after ingesting any amount of alcohol illegal for underage individuals
  • A graduated driver’s license system that allows new drivers to build skills under increasingly more challenging conditions
  • Parental involvement, including close monitoring and setting restrictions on the teen drivers

I’ll also add another idea: parents should always set a good example. All the education in the world is useless if kids see their parents driving and drinking, texting while driving, or speeding.

Too Many Teen Auto Accident Deaths 

Mothers Against Drunk Driving agreed that educational programs were working to decrease drunk driving among young people. However a MADD lobbyist cautioned that “there are still too many people dying of drunk driving every year.” 

Auto crashes remain the top killer of teens and young adults. 2,000 teens between 16 and 19 years old were killed on our roadways in 2013 — about six teens every day.

In addition, far too many young adults are still drinking and driving despite the risks. Almost 20 percent of 21 to 25 year olds admitted driving drunk. The stats for 16 to 20 year olds were more promising, with seven per cent saying they had driven drunk.

As an auto accident lawyer, I see the horrific consequences of drunk driving on a daily basis. Let’s do what we can to keep this promising downward trend continuing so our roads are safer. 

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