Teen Drunk Driving Statistics 

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited: JULY  04 ,
| 4 Sources

Teen Drunk Driving Statistics

Alcohol is a drug, and it affects the brain. When an adolescent drinks, he or she may not have the ability to make proper decisions. For example, studies have shown that young people who use alcohol are more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior such as jumping from heights or using dangerous equipment. These activities don't usually occur when the individual is sober.

It is normal experience for teens to experiment with alcohol. This is often a concern for parents and guardians. A challenge that many parents and guardians face is distinguishing age related behavior changes, from alcohol influenced behaviors.

Alcohol is known to cause impairment with judgement skills, which is a contributing factor to teenage drinking and driving. An additional factor contributing to teenage drinking and driving would be that young adults often think that bad things “won’t happen to me”. 

While experimenting with alcohol is a typical behavior among teenagers, heavy and consistent drinking is not the norm. Recognizing drinking concerns at an early stage can be beneficial when getting help. For more on teenage drinking, follow the link for additional information.

Let’s look at some statistics teenage drunk driving, in the US.

Drivers aged 16 to 19 are three times more likely to be involved in car crashes than older drivers.

(Source: Safety Resource Center 2019) 

Car accident statistics by age are clear. A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that teenage drivers are at greater risk than elderly people.

  • Some 12.2% of car accidents are the responsibility of teen drivers, 
  • 7.5% were caused by drivers over 65, according to the United States Census Bureau.
  • There are nearly 40,000 fatal car accidents per year in the U.S.
  • Each day, more than 90 Americans die in car accidents.
  • Almost 8,000 people are killed in traffic accidents involving drivers aged 16-20.
  • The most common causes of accidents resulting in death are drunk driving (40%), speeding (30%), and irresponsible driving (33%).
  • Some 58% of fatal car accidents involve only one vehicle, and 38% are caused by a traffic collision.
  • When it comes to fatal car accidents by state, most occurred in Texas and California during 2018.
  • According to the statistics, most fatal injuries happen during weekends. 
  • Each year, more than 1,600 children younger than 15 die in traffic accidents.
  • Teenage drunk driving kills eight teens every day.
  • 40% of alcohol-related fatal car crashes involve teens.
  • 60% of all teen deaths in car accidents are alcohol related.
  • A teenage boy with a blood alcohol concentration of just 0.05 (well below the amount considered “legally drunk” in most states) is 18 times more likely to suffer a single vehicle crash than his non-drinking counterparts. And a teenage girl is 54 times more likely to crash!

The statistics teenage drunk driving are simply staggering. It’s clear that something has to be done about the problem. In a moment, we’ll talk about prevention and treatments. First, let’s look at some other facts about teens and alcohol.

Teens and Alcohol

Alcohol use among teens is a serious matter. Consider the following:

  • The average boy takes his first drink at age 11. The average girl, at age 13.
  • Every day an average of 11,318 teens try alcohol for the first time.
  • More than half of high school seniors report that they have been drunk at least once.
  • Three million teens are alcoholics.
  • Americans drink the heaviest in their teens to mid-twenties. Alcohol use declines after that.
  • Teens who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol as adults than those who do not begin drinking until age 21.

These are not statistics teenage drunk driving, but they are related. Teens who drive while under the influence are also more likely to be in an accident than adults who drive while intoxicated. Experts believe this is because teens have less driving experience and often overestimate their driving abilities. Teens also engage in more risk-taking behaviors, such as speeding.

So how do we prevent teens from drinking and driving? Let’s see.


How to Prevent Teenage Drunk Driving

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), an organization that works to prevent drunk driving, offers parents the following suggestions to help prevent teens from drunk driving:

  • Volunteer to help organize a fun, alcohol-free post-prom party at your high school.
  • Sign a “contract for life” with your child. This is an agreement that your child will call you anytime they need a ride home, if they or their friends have been drinking. In exchange, you will not ask any questions until a later, calmer time.
  • Write letters to local stores that sell alcohol letting them know that you will not patronize any shops that sell alcohol to minors.
  • Distribute MADD brochures at your church, your school’s parents’ associations, and other organization (brochures can be downloaded free on their websites, or you can call them).

In addition, parents should talk to their teens about drunk driving. Studies have shown that teens whose parents talk to them about alcohol use are far less likely to use than those whose parents do not discuss the issue with them.

Parents need to have a serious talk with their teens about the consequences of drunk driving. Parents should read up on what could happen to their child if he or she is involved in an accident while driving under the influence.

In addition, parents and teens should talk about drinking and driving statistics teenage drunk driving, as well as how teen alcohol abuse often leads to other problems like drug use.

The facts that they both know will be more effective than lecturing or nagging. Also, parents can find positive things to say about kids who choose not to drink (e.g., "Isn't it nice that Billy decided not to drink tonight? I sure appreciate it because I was worried about him driving home later on...").

What doesn’t work is just giving kids statistics teenage drunk driving. While it’s important for parents and educators to be aware of the statistics, and it can be useful to share those stats with teens as well, just giving them the numbers doesn’t do the trick. The above steps will work better than simply giving them dry statistics.

If your teen is addicted to alcohol or not yet an alcoholic but is heading down that path, take action now and find out how to prevent teenage drunk driving before it's too late. Reach out to a treatment provider today to know how you can help your adolescent with his or her battle against alcoholism.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

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