CDC Study Shows 54 Percent Decrease in Teen Drunk Driving


Teen driving photoThe percentage of high school teens age 16 and older who drive while drinking alcohol decreased by 54 percent between 1991 and 2011. According to a Vital Signs study, 9 out of 10 teens are not drinking and driving. 

Here’s what the study found according to the CDC: 

  • Teens were responsible for approximately 2.4 million episodes of drinking and driving a month in 2011; some engaged in the dangerous behavior more than once a month.
  • High school boys ages 18 and older were most likely to drink and drive (18 percent), while 16-year-old high school girls were least likely (6 percent).
  • Eighty-five percent of teens in high school who reported drinking and driving in the past month also reported binge drinking. For YRBS, binge drinking means five or more drinks during a short period of time.

Efforts have been made to reduce teen driving and drinking alcohol including zero tolerance laws and graduated driver’s license systems. Zero tolerance laws mean teens under the age of 21 must not drink alcohol and drive. Graduated driver's license systems ease teens onto the highways rather than endangering them immediately upon getting their licenses. According to the study, "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."

“We are moving in the right direction. Rates of teen drinking and driving have been cut in half in 20 years,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “But we must keep up the momentum -- one in 10 high school teens, aged 16 and older, drinks and drives each month, endangering themselves and others.”

Photo: Thinkstock

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.









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