The percentage of teens in high school who drink and drive has decreased by more than half since 1991,* but more can be done. Nearly one million high school teens drank alcohol and got behind the wheel in 2011. Teen drivers are 3 times more likely than more experienced drivers to be in a fatal crash. Drinking any alcohol greatly increases this risk for teens.
Research has shown that factors that help to keep teens safe include parental involvement, minimum legal drinking age and zero tolerance laws, and graduated driver licensing systems. These proven steps can protect the lives of more young drivers and everyone who shares the road with them.
*High school students aged 16 years and older who, when surveyed, said they had driven a vehicle one or more times during the past 30 days when they had been drinking alcohol
Parental Involvement, with a focus on monitoring and restricting what new drivers are allowed to do, helps keep new drivers safe as they learn to drive. Parents can consider creating and signing a parent-teen driving agreement with their teens. Research has shown that when parents establish and enforce the “rules of the road”, new drivers report lower rates of risky driving, traffic violations, and crashes.
Understand that most teens who drink do so to get drunk.
- Recognize the dangers of teen drinking and driving and that teen drivers are at much greater risk of crashing after drinking alcohol than adult drivers.
- Provide teens with a safe way to get home (such as picking them up or paying for a cab) if their driver has been drinking.
- Model safe driving behavior.
- Consider tools like parent-teen driving agreements to set and enforce the “rules of the road” for new drivers. Safe driving habits for teens include the following:
- Never drink and drive
- Follow state GDL laws
- Wear a seat belt on every trip
- Limit nighttime driving
- Set a limit on the number of teen passengers
- Never use a cell phone or text while driving
- Obey speed limits