Dangers of Teen Drinking and Driving
Drinking and driving is an extremely dangerous activity, particularly for teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 19. These young drivers already face the highest risk of vehicle-related collisions than any other age group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While older adults are more likely to be involved in an accident when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 or higher, teen drivers are at risk at any BAC level. When a teen driver's BAC gets up to 0.08 or higher, his or her chances of sustaining a fatal injury are 17 times higher than when alcohol is not involved.
Teen drivers have less experience, and may have a tendency to speed or tailgate, and are more likely to text and drive, as well as exhibit other reckless driving behaviors. These actions, coupled with alcohol-impairment, can be a deadly combination.
West Virginia Drunk Driving Accident Statistics
Teen drinking and driving is a problem here in West Virginia, as well as throughout the country. In West Virginia, 8.6 percent of high school teenage drivers, ages 16 and older, admitted to drinking and driving, according to Youth Risk Behavior Surveys analyzed by the CDC. The risks are high, as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) statistics reveal:
- 27.4 percent of all traffic-related fatalities in West Virginia involve a driver with a BAC of 0.08 or higher
- 2114 alcohol-related crashes took place in West Virginia in one recent year
- 757 alcohol-related collisions caused injury or harm that same year
- Of the non-fatal accidents where alcohol played a role, all involved a driver with a BAC of at least 0.01
- 56,000 youth between the ages of 12 and 20 reported using alcohol in the past 30 days
- 39,000 teens ages 12 to 20 admitting to binge drinking within the prior month
On a nationwide scale, the CDC indicated the percentage of high school teenagers who drink and drive has decreased 54 percent in the past few decades, however approximately 23 percent of drivers (between the ages of 15 and 20) were found to have been drinking prior to being involved in a fatal collision in 2012. The CDC went on to state:
- Close to 2.4 million high school teenagers drink and drive per month
- 22 percent of teens admitted to riding with a driver who had some level of alcohol-impairment in the prior 30 days
- 10 percent of the teen drivers surveyed said they had consumed alcohol before getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle in the past month
- 85 percent of those who drank and drove, also admitted to binge drinking, which was defined as having five or more alcoholic beverages within the course of a few hours time
100 Deadliest Days for Teen Drivers
The days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers. This is the time of year with the highest rate of teenage deaths in vehicle-related accidents. According to statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 30 percent of the teenage motor vehicle crash fatalities in 2013 took place during the months of June, July and August. An estimated 54 percent of fatal vehicle collisions involving teenagers occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
Due to the danger teen drivers commonly face during this time of year, it is essential for teens and their parents to understand the risks of teen drinking and driving. It is also important for teens to avoid drinking and drinking at all costs, as it could lead to their arrest, monetary fines, jail time, serious injury or death.
How to Minimize the Risk of Your Teen Being Injured or Killed in a Drunk Driving Accident
Most parents do not ever want to receive a call notifying them that their child has been injured or killed in a drunk driving accident, particularly when the accident may have been the fault of their teen driver. Parents who want to minimize the risk of their teen driver sustaining injury in a drunk driving accident, can help keep a young driver safe with the following actions:
- Reminding their teen that underage drinking is against the law in West Virginia, and even a BAC of 0.02 percent (typically one drink) could lead to fines, the suspension of their driver's license, as well as probation or jail time.
- Getting their teen to sign an agreement to never drink and drive.
- Educating their teen on the importance of having a sober driver, and why they should never get in a vehicle driven by an individual who has been drinking.
- Requiring the use of seatbelts at all times, by both driver and passengers.
- Prohibiting inexperienced teen drivers from having more than one teenage passenger in the vehicle with them, unless an adult family member is present.
- Establishing a curfew time and restrict driving privileges in the evening and early morning hours, or once it gets dark.
- Making sure your son or daughter attends a teen driving safety class where he or she can gain real-life experience and become a more competent, responsible driver.
As long as your child is aware of the leading causes of accidents involving teen drivers (inexperience, driving with teen passengers, nighttime driving, not using seat belts, distracted driving, drowsy driving, reckless driving and impaired driving), he or she will be more able to avoid becoming another tragic accident statistic.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Teen Drivers: Get the Facts
- CDC: Vital Signs: Teen Drinking and Driving
- MADD: West Virginia: Drunk Driving
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: Teenagers 2013: When teenagers died