Teen DUI statistics should scare us all. Impaired driving is a major factor that increases the risk of a serious crash. Impaired driving includes driving under the influence of alcohol or drug use and when drowsy. Impaired driving affects judgment, reaction times, and awareness, which makes it especially dangerous for teen drivers whose inexperience already places them four times more likely to crash than adults.
Teens need to understand when they are unfit to drive. Consuming alcohol or other drugs, including marijuana, in any amount, makes them unfit to drive and can result in a DUI or worse. While it can be harder to recognize, driving while drowsy is also considered an “impairment” and increases crash risk.
It’s critical that teens avoid riding with an impaired driver. Teens should know they can always call or text a parent for a ride home instead of getting in a car with an impaired driver. Teenagers and parents should know teen DUI statistics, impaired driving laws, and other facts about impaired driving to help manage this crash risk. Alternative rides home, such as taxis and ride share companies, are options in more populated areas.
Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) offers a Contract for Life that promises the teen, both as driver or passenger, will call or text home for a safe ride instead of getting into a car when the driver could be intoxicated, high, or tired, which is very dangerous. Families may want to consider using this contract to encourage use of a code word when needed.
Families with teens should be encouraged by research conducted at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia that shows teens with involved parents are less likely to crash and much less likely to drive intoxicated compared to teens with less involved parents. Keeping the lines of communication open really matters. Teens who share knowledge about their lives with their parents are less likely to abuse alcohol in the future and to drive while impaired.
Watch this video to improve communication with your teen:
How to Help Your Teen Not Drive Impaired
- Listen and be responsive to teens’ concerns, which are often quite practical. Although it may be difficult to hear, encourage teens to share potential unsafe scenarios where parents may need to help. These can include being asked to ride home with someone who is impaired or driving while impaired.
- Develop rules and expectations together. Teens need to know that they can always call their parents for a ride home instead of getting in a car with an impaired driver or driving themselves without being punished. Parents themselves can be the reason for teens saying “no” to peers to avoid unsafe situations.
- Make getting enough sleep a priority. Drowsy driving is a factor that increases the risk of a crash. Offer rides to school or work when teens are up late studying.
It's also important to be aware that the latest personal alcohol breath testing devices paired with smartphones failed to detect drivers when over the legal driving limit more than half the time. So, if your teen plans to rely on one of these tests to avoid a DUI instead of calling you for a ride home, talk about why this is not a good idea based on this new research.
In 2020, 29% of young drivers (ages 15-20) involved in fatal crashes had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of .01 g/dL or higher; 82% of them had BACs of .08 g/dL or higher.
More Teen DUI Statistics and Impaired Driving Facts
- Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities increased by 14% from 2019 to 2020, accounting for 30% of overall motor vehicle crash fatalities in 2020.
- In 2019 17% of high school students nationwide reported riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol at least once during the past month.
- In 2019 5% of high school students nationwide reported driving after drinking alcohol at least once during the past month.
- Teens who drink underage or who ride with impaired drivers are more likely to drive impaired themselves.
- In addition to direct impairments, driving while drowsy can also increase the existing risks of distracted driving and can put all road users at risk, including child passengers.
- Teen drivers are less likely than adults to drink and drive, but their crash risk is substantially higher when they do, even with low or moderate blood-alcohol (BAC) levels.