Nearly One-Third Of Teens Drove With An Impaired Driver This Year

By McCarton Ackerman 11/02/15

Despite knowing the dangers of drunk driving, a large portion of teens still put themselves in harm's way.

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While many teenagers understand the importance of not drinking and driving, a large percentage seem to think that doesn’t apply to getting in a car with someone who has consumed alcohol.

An online poll from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and State Farm Insurance found that 30% of teenagers knowingly accepted a ride in the past year from a driver who had been drinking. Thirty percent of the 600 people between ages 15-20 who took the survey felt that objecting to a ride from a drunk driver would harm their friendship.

“October is a time when teens across the country are settling into the new school year and enjoying ... fall festivities, increasing the chances that they’ll be confronted with a drunk driver,” said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church. Her son, Dustin, died at the age of 18 when his friend, under the influence of drugs and alcohol, drove a car into a river.

The poll findings also tie into a recent study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. The research project showed that while teens don’t intend to get in a car with someone who has been drinking, they’re willing to if the occasion arises. Peer pressure can also swing the other way as well; teens who think their friends will disapprove of them leaving with a drunk driver are less likely to do so.

A separate study published last year in the journal Pediatrics also found that teens who ride with a drunk driver were 34 times more likely to drive drunk themselves. Thirty percent of the participants admitted to either riding with an impaired driver or personally driving drunk.

The data came from analyzing the findings of the NEXT Generation study, which started with 10th grade students in the 2009-2010 school year and followed them annually through the end of their high-school careers.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.