Impaired Driving: A Major Factor in Car Accidents Among Teens

Our Palm Coast accident attorneys discuss teens and impaired driving accidents.

As winter fades, the days grow longer, the school year ends, and there’s more time for teenagers to play. Too often, teens make alcohol part of the playing. Far too often, the “fun” involves impaired driving accidents and the grief they can bring.

Numbers for 2014 show that 17 percent of 16- to 20-year-olds in fatal crashes had blood-alcohol levels of 0.08 or higher, and a survey done in 2015 found that 20 percent of teens had ridden with an impaired driver in the previous month.

That’s bad news, and there is something that makes it even worse than it sounds. Teenage drivers are at higher risk of crashing even when they aren’t drinking:

  • Auto accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers, and about 25 percent of those crashes involve an underage driver drinking.
  • 16- to 19-year-olds are the most at-risk age group when it comes to auto accidents.
  • 16- to 19-year-olds are nearly three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers 20 or older.

Teen Drinking and Driving Statistics

Teen Drinking StatisticsIn a Wallethub ranking of best and worst states for teen drivers in 2016, Florida was 29th. The evaluation process included fatalities and laws on impaired driving, and the report notes the riskiest days for teen drivers: Fridays through Sundays.

It’s easy to go numb when reading about car accident statistics, making it easier to detach yourself from the flesh-and-bone reality of young lives lost. But data points do drive home the facts and push people to make changes.

Here are some chilling facts from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ crash statistics summary for 2015:

  • There were 42,874 teen driver crashes, with 92 teen driver fatalities, 47 teen passenger fatalities, 11,085 teen driver injuries, and 8,248 teen passenger injuries.
  • For 15- to 19-year-old drivers, alcohol was suspected in 576 crashes, including 30 fatalities.
  • For 15- to 19-year-old drivers, drugs were suspected in 148 crashes, with 14 fatalities. 

Teens and Impaired Driving – the Problems

Data show that crashes kill six 16- to 19-year-olds every day in the United States. In addition to fatalities and injuries, there is a financial toll for everyone involved. Teens were responsible for crashes in 2012 that cost the nation $10 billion. In fact, researchers with the Bloomberg School of Public Health calculated that teen drinking cost the nation more than $24 billion in 2010 for things ranging from medical care to criminal justice expenses.

There are common problems behind the DUI casualties, problems that exist before the alcohol starts flowing. Even when sober:

  • Teens are more likely to underestimate deadly situations, and their lack of experience results in more errors.
  • Teens are more likely to speed and tailgate.
  • Teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use.
  • Teens’ lack of experience and other typical driving practices make them even more of a crash risk when they drink.

Aside from the financial costs of DUI convictions, they can affect education and job prospects and increase auto insurance rates. That seems insignificant, though, if you consider the consequences of a DUI manslaughter charge or severely injuring an innocent person.

How Can Parents Keep Teens from Drinking and Driving?

 Parents can begin by educating themselves on driving challenges their teens face.Parents can make a difference, and education is a big way to do that. Parents can begin by educating themselves on driving challenges their teens face. A good start would be learning the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Eight Danger Zones: driver inexperience, driving with teen passengers, nighttime driving, not using seat belts, distracted driving, drowsy driving, reckless driving, and impaired driving.

The Eight Danger Zones are part of the CDC’s four-part focus on teaching parents how to raise safe drivers. The CDC also encourages:

Enforcing your state’s teen driving laws. Florida has a zero-tolerance law for drivers younger than 21. Get caught driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.02 or higher, and it’s an automatic six-month license suspension.

Sign a rules-of-the-road agreement. Discuss your rules of the road with your child, why the rules matter, and the consequences for breaking them. The CDC even has a parent-teen driving agreement form that can be downloaded.

Share what you learn. Other parents are facing the same challenge. The CDC notes that it only takes a minute to share lifesaving information on Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter.

What Else Can Be Done?

The CDC covers the bases on educating parents, but it also has advice for states and communities, pediatricians and other health care professionals, and teenagers.

States and communities can:

  • Push for increased awareness of impaired driving among teens and parents.
  • Strengthen enforcement of existing policies such as minimum legal drinking age, zero tolerance laws, and graduated driver licensing systems.
  • Update and pass laws to stay ahead of the problem.

Pediatricians and other health professionals can:

  • Screen teens for risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, driving after using drugs and alcohol, and riding with someone who is using drugs or alcohol.
  • Educate parents and teens about the risks of drinking and driving.
  • Encourage parents of new teen drivers to set and enforce rules of the road, and consider using tools such as parent-teen driving agreements.
  • Remind parents to lead by example as safe drivers.

Teenagers can make the biggest difference by:

  • Choosing to never drink and drive.
  • Refusing to accompany a teen driver (or any other driver) who is impaired.
  • Knowing and following the graduated driver licensing laws.
  • Following the “rules of the road” outlined in the parent-teen driving agreement.
  • Wearing a seat belt on every trip.
  • Obeying speed limits and all other driving laws.
  • Avoiding distracted driving, especially the use of a cellphone or texting when driving. 

When You Need Help After a Crash

Since 1973, people from Palm Coast to Ormond Beach and throughout Florida have benefited from the skills and dedication of the car accident attorneys at the law firm of Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant Our dedicated attorneys know that no amount of preparation on your part can keep you out of the path of irresponsible drivers, and we stand ready to help.

If the worst happens, contact us to learn how we can help you pursue the financial compensation needed to get your life back on track.

Additional resources:

CDC Fact Sheet
CDC Vital Signs
CDC Resources for parents

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