The Decline in the Number of Teens Drinking and Driving

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One in five teens ages 16–19 who had fatal car accidents in 2010 were under the influence of alcohol. Fortunately, there are fewer teens drinking and driving now than in recent years.

drinking and driving decline among teens

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Teenage Drinking and Driving

  • The percentage of high school students ages 16 and older who drink and drive fell from 22.3% in 1991 to 10.3% in 2011.
  • The percentage of teens who have driven while drunk was stable prior to 1997, then declined.
  • About 950,000 high schoolers drink and drive in the U.S., totalling roughly 2.4 million occurrences within a thirty-day period.

Who is Drinking and Driving:

  • 11.7% of male students drink and drive.
  • 8.8% of female students drink and drive.
  • 10.6% of white students, 11.5% of Hispanic students, and 6.6% of African American students drink and drive.


  • 7.2% of 16-year-old students drink and drive.
  • 11.5% of 17-year-old students drink and drive.
  • 14.5% of students ages 18 or above drink and drive.

Binge Drinking:

  • 26.4% of students binge drink.
  • Among students who drink and drive, a staggering 84.6% binge drink.
  • 32.1% of binge drinkers are likely to drink and drive, while only 9.7% of teens who do not binge drink, but do consume alcohol, are likely to drink and drive.
  • One in ten high school students ages 16 and older claim to have driven while drunk within the span of thirty days in 2011, 85% of whom binge drank in the same period.


  • For each 0.02% BAC increase, drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 double their likelihood of dying in a car crash.
  • A 16-20-year-old driver with a BAC of 0.08%–0.099% is 32 times more likely to die in a car crash (and 13 times more likely to live but kill someone else) as a sober driver the same age.
  • Of teens who die in car crashes with a positive BAC rating, 81% are over the legal limit of 0.08%.

The Best and Worst States

  • The state with the highest prevalence of teen drinking and driving is North Dakota at 14.5%.
  • The state with the lowest teenage drinking and driving rate is Utah at 4.6%.
  • Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming all have higher rates of teenage drinking and driving than the national average.
  • Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, and Virginia all have lower rates of teenage drinking and driving than the national average.
  • The median prevalence of teenage drinking and driving in the U.S. is 10.1%.

What's Working?

  • Alcohol use, binge drinking, and driving have all declined since the 1990s.
  • Driving among teens declined substantially between 2000 and 2010.
  • The proportion of seniors in high school who did not drive in an average week went from 15% in 2000 to 22% in 2010.
  • The widespread implementation of graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems, which restrict teenage driving permissions, is thought to be one of the reasons for the decline of teen driving.
  • Increases in gas prices since 2007 also have contributed to the decline in teen driving.
  • Policy adoptions since the 1980s have curbed teenage drinking and driving.
  • The creation and enforcement of a nationwide legal drinking age had, by 1988, reduced teen drinking and driving fatalities by an estimated 17%.
  • “Zero tolerance laws,” which decrease states’ legal BAC ratings to 0.02% for those under 21 years of age, have reduced teen drinking and driving fatalities between 9 and 24%.

This infographic was provided by Total DUI.

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