Drivers under the age of 21 represent about 10% of licensed drivers in the U.S. but are responsible for 17% of fatal alcohol-involved crashes. Those are some sobering statistics given that these drivers can’t even legally purchase alcohol.
The Dangers of Underage Drinking & Driving
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more young people abuse alcohol than any other substance, and 12 to 20-year-olds account for more than 10% of the country’s alcohol consumption.
The risks of drunk driving are especially pronounced for teens. When they do consume alcohol, teens are more likely than adults to binge drink, leading to higher BACs when they get behind the wheel. The CDC reports that high school students drive intoxicated about 2.4 million times each month, and underage drivers are 17% more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash with alcohol in their system.
The most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that fatal roadway crashes among people aged 16–20 are on the rise. Since 2015, young drivers involved in fatal crashes rose by 3.6%, and the number of resulting deaths of drivers in this age group increased by 0.1%. Alcohol plays a significant role in these deaths—more than a third of fatal motor vehicle crashes among people aged 16–20 involve alcohol.
How Parents Can Discourage Underage Drinking & Driving
There are many ways adults can model safe behavior and discourage their teens from drinking and driving. A tried and true method is to simply not have booze available in your home—but if that’s not an option, locking up your liquor supply is another solution to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors. Take inventory of bottles and warn older siblings to not become the alcohol supplier.
Regular conversations about the dangers and consequences of alcohol use can go a long way when positively influencing your teen. In fact, research suggests that teens may interpret a parent’s failure to talk about underage drinking as indifference, making them more likely to use alcohol.
Providing sober spaces for your teens, such as alcohol-free parties at home, is a great way to actively supervise their activities. Remember to stay in touch with their friends’ parents so all adults are on the same page, as adults can be held responsible for failing to monitor minors who get caught drinking.
However, if your teen decides to take a sip of alcohol anyway, it is important to model safe behavior. Let them know that if they need a safe ride home for any reason, you are always available.
There are many ways to educate underage drivers about the dangers of drinking and getting behind the wheel. What methods do you use to deter your teen from underage drinking?