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Between 1991 and 2015, the percentage of high school students who report riding in a car with someone who had been drinking alcohol in the past month fell by half, from 40 to 20 percent, and is the lowest on record.

Importance

Alcohol use among youth is associated with a wide variety of risky behaviors,[1] including driving while under the influence of alcohol. Any level of alcohol consumption has a negative impact on driving skills and carries significant safety risks.[2] In addition, drivers who have been drinking are less likely to use seat belts.[3]

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young drivers (15- to 20-year-olds), with over 3,300 deaths in 2015.[4] In 2014, one in five (21 percent) of young drivers who were killed in an automobile accident had been drinking and were legally intoxicated.[5] Drinking and driving or riding in a car with someone who has been drinking are clearly significant health risks for America’s youth.

Trends

The proportion of high school students who reported riding in a car in the past month with someone who had been drinking dropped from 39 percent in 1995 to 20 percent in 2015. Similarly, the percentage of students who reported driving after drinking dropped from 17 percent in 1997 to eight percent in 2011. The most recent data for the latter measure are not comparable to earlier years’ (see Definition, below). In 2015, eight percent of students who had driven in the past month reported driving after drinking alcohol. (Figure 1)

Differences by Gender

Male and female students report similar rates of riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol (both 20 percent in 2015). Male students, however, are more likely than females to report driving after drinking alcohol. In 2015, 10 percent of high school male drivers, compared with six percent of females, reported driving after drinking alcohol. (Figure 2) However, this gender difference is found for white students, but not for Hispanic or black students. (Appendix 2)

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin[6]

Hispanic students are more likely than white or black students to report riding in a car with a driver who had been drinking alcohol (26 versus 18 and 21 percent, respectively, in 2015). There are no differences among black, white, and Hispanic students in the likelihood of driving after drinking alcohol. (Figure 3)

Differences by Grade

The percentage of drivers who report driving after drinking is higher among older students than among younger students. In 2015, the percentage of students in twelfth grade who drove after drinking was much greater than the rate for students in ninth and tenth grades: 10, compared with 6 and 5 percent, respectively. In 2015, twelfth-graders were equally as likely as their ninth-grade peers (20 percent, for each) to ride in a car with a driver who had been drinking. (Figure 4) (Appendix 1)

State and Local Estimates

2015 estimates of drinking and driving among high school students (Grades 9-12) are available for select states and cities from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) (Tables 5 & 6).

International Estimates

None available.

National Goals

Through its Healthy People 2020 initiative, the federal government has set a national goal to reduce the number of high school students who report riding with a driver who had been drinking, from a 2009 baseline of 28.3 percent, to 25.5 percent by 2020. To reach this goal, the government encourages school-based and community programs that reduce adolescent drinking and driving and increases in law enforcement. There is also a goal in development to increase the number of Driving While Impaired (DWI) specialty courts in the United States.

More information is available here.  (see goal SA-1 and SA-5)

What Works to Make Progress on This Indicator

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a summary of related data, policies, and practices that “work,” and tips for parents, health professionals, and teens, in Teen Drinking and Driving: A Dangerous Mix.

Also, see Child Trends’ LINKS database (“Lifecourse Interventions to Nurture Kids Successfully”), for reviews of many rigorously evaluated programs, including the following which have been shown to be effective:

Related Indicators

Definition

Students are asked if they “rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol” or “drove after drinking alcohol” one or more times in the last thirty days. In 2013 and 2015, the population for percentage of students who drove after drinking alcohol was limited to those who had driven in the past month, rather than including all students, as was the case prior to 2013.

In the 2015 survey, students from Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin were not included.

Data Sources

All data for students who rode with a driver who had been drinking, and 1991-1992 and 2013-2015 data for students who had driven after drinking alcohol: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016). 1991-2015 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data. Accessed on 3/9/2017. Retrieved from https://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/App/Default.aspx

1993-2011 data for students who had driven after drinking alcohol: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1995-2013). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States {various years}. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 44-61. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/index.htm

Raw Data Source

Youth Risk Behavior Survey

https://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/App/Default.aspx

Appendix 1 – Percentage of High School Students1 Who Reported They Rode in a Car with a Driver Who Had Been Drinking in the Past 30 Days: Selected Years, 1991-2015

1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015
All Students 39.9 35.3 38.8 36.6 33.1 30.7 30.2 28.5 29.1 28.3 24.1 21.9 20.0
Race/Hispanic Origin3
Non-Hispanic White 40.5 34.1 37.7 36.9 32.4 30.3 28.5 28.3 27.9 26.2 22.1 19.7 17.7
Non-Hispanic Black 35.5 39.3 37.1 33.5 34.4 27.6 30.9 24.1 27.4 30.0 22.8 21.9 21.1
Hispanic 46.9 42.3 49.4 42.8 39.5 38.3 36.4 36.1 35.5 34.2 30.7 29.1 26.2
Grade
9 34.9 31.5 37.6 33.3 31.0 30.4 28.2 27.9 27.6 27.5 21.8 19.4 20.2
10 37.7 34.3 37.3 32.3 33.3 30.6 29.3 27.8 28.7 28.0 23.3 21.8 18.7
11 42.4 35.8 37.4 39.4 30.7 29.1 30.5 28.0 29.2 29.4 23.8 22.6 20.6
12 44.7 39.3 42.2 40.5 37.2 32.8 33.3 30.1 31.5 28.2 27.7 24.2 20.4
Male 40.0 36.3 39.5 38.3 34.4 31.8 29.2 27.2 29.5 27.8 23.3 21.4 19.6
Race/Hispanic Origin3
Non-Hispanic White 40.2 34.7 37.9 38.9 33.0 31.2 27.3 26.2 27.8 25.5 20.5 19.6 17.7
Non-Hispanic Black 37.5 41.3 41.6 37.3 34.0 31.2 31.8 24.3 28.1 31.2 22.5 18.9 20.6
Hispanic 47.2 45.1 49.2 44.6 41.8 37.1 32.8 37.4 36.0 33.5 30.7 28.9 25.3
Grade
9 33.9 30.0 39.1 31.8 29.9 29.2 26.4 25.8 27.6 25.3 20.7 18.1 19.1
10 36.6 33.0 35.1 35.6 34.8 31.5 27.6 26.2 27.1 28.3 23.1 19.9 19.0
11 45.0 38.8 38.7 42.9 33.4 32.8 30.3 27.7 31.4 29.2 22.4 23.4 20.4
12 44.7 42.5 44.8 41.7 39.7 34.5 34.0 29.5 32.5 28.6 27.4 25.3 19.9
1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015
Female 39.8 34.5 37.8 34.5 31.7 29.6 31.1 29.6 28.8 28.8 24.9 22.4 20.2
Race/Hispanic Origin3
Non-Hispanic White 40.9 33.5 37.3 34.5 31.7 29.4 29.8 30.4 28.0 26.9 23.8 19.9 17.5
Non-Hispanic Black 33.8 37.3 33.0 29.8 34.7 24.2 29.8 24.0 26.9 28.7 23.2 24.8 21.2
Hispanic 46.7 39.7 49.7 40.6 37.3 39.3 40.0 34.7 35.1 34.9 30.7 29.2 27.3
Grade
9 36.0 33.1 35.4 34.9 32.0 31.3 30.2 30.1 27.6 30.0 22.9 20.8 21.3
10 38.8 35.9 39.6 28.2 32.0 29.9 31.0 29.5 30.4 27.6 23.5 23.8 18.4
11 39.7 32.8 36.0 35.1 28.1 25.4 30.7 28.1 26.8 29.6 25.2 21.8 20.1
12 44.8 36.1 39.2 39.1 34.8 31.3 32.6 30.7 30.5 27.9 28.0 23.2 21.0
1 Estimates do not include youth who dropped out of school and therefore may not reflect total national values. In the 2015 survey, students from Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota were not included.

2 Race/ethnicity estimates from 1999 and later are not directly comparable to earlier years, due to federal changes in race definitions. In surveys conducted in 1999 and later, respondents were allowed to select more than one race when selecting their race category. Estimates presented by race and Hispanic origin only include respondents who selected one category when choosing their race, therefore excluding respondents of two or more races.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016). 1991-2015 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data. Accessed on 3/9/2017. Retrieved from https://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/App/Default.aspx.

Appendix 2 – Percentage of High School Students1 Who Reported Driving After Drinking Alcohol in the Past 30 Days: Selected Years, 1991-2015*

1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013* 2015*
All Students 16.7 13.5 15.4 16.9 13.1 13.3 12.1 9.9 10.5 9.7 8.2 10.0 7.8
Race/Hispanic Origin3
Non-Hispanic White 18.7 14.6 16.8 18.9 14.6 14.7 12.9 11.3 11.6 10.8 8.0 10.4 7.4
Non-Hispanic Black 9.8 9.8 10.5 9.4 7.9 7.7 9.1 4.9 5.7 6.4 5.9 6.2 6.9
Hispanic 17 13.4 15.3 18.1 12.7 13.1 11.7 10.5 10.3 9.4 9.7 11.6 9.4
Grade
9 6.0 5.0 9.6 9.7 5.3 6.6 6.2 5.5 5.5 5.0 4.7 8.0 5.6
10 11.9 8.6 10.4 11.5 10.1 10.4 9.2 6.6 8.7 8.3 5.6 6.2 5.3
11 20.5 15.1 16.1 19.9 16.4 16.7 15.3 12.1 11.5 11.4 9.1 11.0 8.7
12 28.2 23.8 24.0 25.3 22.8 22.1 19.8 17.1 18.3 15.4 13.6 13.1 9.9
Male 21.5 17.6 18.5 21.0 17.4 17.2 15.0 11.7 12.8 11.6 9.5 12.0  9.5
Race/Hispanic Origin3
Non-Hispanic White 23.3 18.5 19.4 22.8 18.7 18.6 15.2 12.4 13.9 12.7 8.9 12.4 9.4
Non-Hispanic Black 14.0 14.5 16.1 14.3 10.6 12.5 13.4 6.5 7.5 8.7 7.8 6.9 8.3
Hispanic 25.1 19.5 17.1 24.2 17.2 15.8 14.9 14.6 13.0 11.0 11.5 14.5 10.7
Grade
9 8.6 6.9 11.4 11.7 6.1 9.9 7.2 6.5 6.8 5.1 6.1 9.6 5.7
10 16.1 10.8 10.9 14.8 15.0 12.5 11.3 8.3 10.0 11.0 6.0 7.4 8.2
11 26.4 19.5 18.9 25.1 20.5 22.1 19.5 14.7 13.7 13.0 10.4 14.0 10.3
12 34.5 31.6 32.0 30.4 31.2 27.2 25.6 19.2 23.6 19.3 16.0 15.7 11.7
1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013* 2015*
Female 11.7 9.1 11.9 12.0 8.7 9.5 8.9 8.1 8.1 7.6 6.7 7.8 6.0
Race/Hispanic Origin3
Non-Hispanic White 13.6 10.3 13.6 14.0 10.3 10.9 10.3 10.1 9.3 8.7 7.0 8.2 5.4
Non-Hispanic Black 6.2 5.3 5.3 4.8 5.4 3.3 4.6 3.5 3.9 4.1 4.0 5.4 5.1
Hispanic 9.5 7.3 13.6 11.0 8.3 10.5 8.6 6.4 7.7 7.9 7.8 8.4 8.0
Grade
9 3.3 2.9 7.0 7.5 4.5 3.7 5.1 4.5 4.1 4.8 3.3 6.1 5.5
10 7.3 6.4 9.8 7.5 5.3 8.4 6.9 4.8 7.3 5.3 5.2 4.6 2.2
11 14.3 10.3 13.2 13.6 12.3 11.1 11.1 9.5 9.1 9.6 7.8 8.0 6.8
12 21.7 15.8 15.8 18.8 14.4 17.3 13.6 15.0 13.1 11.4 11.2 10.5 8.0
*2013 and 2015 estimates are not comparable to data from previous years because of a definition change. Prior to 2013, percentages were out of all students. In 2013 and 2015, percentages are out of students who had driven at all in the 30 days prior to the survey.

1 Estimates do not include youth who dropped out of school and therefore may not reflect total national values. In the 2015 survey, students from Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota were not included.

2 Race/ethnicity estimates from 1999 and later are not directly comparable to earlier years due to federal changes in race definitions. In surveys conducted in 1999 and later, respondents were allowed to select more than one race when selecting their racial category. Estimates presented only include respondents who selected one category when choosing their race.

Sources: Data for 1993-2011: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1995-2013). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States {various years}. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 44-61. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/yrbs/cdcreports.htm. Data for 1991-1992 & 2013-2015: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). 1991-2015 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data. Accessed on 3/9/2017. Retrieved from https://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/App/Default.aspx.

Endnotes


[1]National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (1997). Youth drinking: Risk factors and consequences. Alcohol Alert, 37. Retrieved from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa37.htm

[2]Phillips, D. P., Sousa, A., & Moshfegh, R. T. (2015). Official blame for drivers with very low blood alcohol content: there is no safe combination of drinking and driving. Injury Prevention, 21, 28-35.

[3]National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2010). Traffic Safety Facts: 2008 data, young drivers. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/811170

[4]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online]. Atlanta, GA: Author. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html

[5]National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2016) Traffic safety facts: 2014 data, young drivers. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812278

[6]Hispanics may be any race. Totals for whites and blacks in this report do not include Hispanics.

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends Databank. (2017). Drunk driving. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=drunk-driving

Last updated: April 2017

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