Nine out of ten high school drivers don’t drink and drive

Educating students about the dangerous consequences of underage drinking and drunk driving is paying off.  A new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of 1991 to 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS) revealed that drinking and driving among high school students has declined 54% over the past two decades, decreasing from 22% in 1991 to 10% in 2011. 

In 2010, 2,211 16-19 year olds died in motor vehicle crashes, including 1,280 (or 58%) who were driving.  Furthermore, one in five 16-19 year old drivers involved in a fatal crash had a positive blood alcohol concentration (BAC), meaning a BAC above .00. Among these teen drivers 81% had a BAC level of .08 or higher.

Sadly, while alcohol consumption is illegal for anyone under the age of 21, one in ten high school students aged 16-18 still report that they had driven after drinking alcohol in the past month, and among these students 85% report that they binge drink.  Drinking and driving rates increase with age, with 7% of 16 year old drivers reporting engaging this in this behavior, 12% of 17 year olds, and 15% of 18 year olds. The study also revealed male students were significantly more likely than their female peers to drink and drive (12% and 9%, respectively).

Despite the progress made against underage drinking and driving, motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for teens 16-19 years of age in this country.  As part of our involvement in teen driver safety The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility partnered with the Virginia Supreme Court to create the teen driver safety program I Know Everything.  The program includes current facts on teen driver safety, tips for parents and teens, a dynamic video highlighting key safe driving messages, and resources for judges.

Today’s report is a positive indicator of the gains being made to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, drunk driving, yet our work remains unfinished.   Remember to talk with your teen driver and share with them your values and that drinking and driving is not acceptable, establish rules for when they drive, and make sure they truly understand the consequences of underage drinking and drinking and driving.