We know that peer pressure is a big influencer of underage drinking, but what influences teens to drink and drive? According to a new study conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, teens who ride in a car with a drunk driver are more likely to drink and drive themselves.
Researchers surveyed 2,500 10th graders over a three-year period. Each year, researchers asked the teens how often in the past year they rode in a car with a drunk driver. In their 12th year, the teens were asked how often in the past month they drove while impaired.
The results? Teens who rode with a drunk driver only in the 10th grade were 21 times more likely to drive drunk by their senior year while teens who rode with drunk drivers all through their first three years of high school were about 120 times more likely to drink and drive by their senior year.
Senior author of the study Bruce Simons-Morton explained that when a teen passenger experiences riding with a drunk driver, the act of drunk driving becomes normal.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and about 25% of those crashes involve an underage drunk driver. Simons-Morton further reports that nearly half of fatalities and injuries caused by alcohol-related crashes occur to passengers, making riding with a drunk driver just as dangerous as drinking and driving.
Parents, keep your teens safe by talking to them about the dangers of both drinking and driving and riding in the car with a drunk driver. Let them know that they can call you for a safe ride no matter what. You can even help teens avoid feeling embarrassed around their friends by coming up with a code phrase that will let you know they need a safe ride.
Teens, don’t ride with drunk drivers, let friends drive drunk, or let friends ride with drunk drivers. Seek help from someone you trust and who can get everybody home safe.