The number of deaths from impaired driving crashes jumps significantly this time of year—so much so that December is recognized as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one person was killed in a drunk-driving crash every 50 minutes in 2018, and the Christmas and New Year’s holiday periods were more dangerous than any other holiday period that year.1 Drunk driving deaths typically represent around a third of all traffic fatalities, but that increases to 40% or higher at Christmas and New Year’s Eve2 due to the fact that people are traveling more and attending more social events where alcohol is served.
December is particularly dangerous for teen drivers
Drinking and driving is never a good (or legal) idea, but December can be a particularly dangerous time for teens to mix substance use and driving in combination with winter weather, poor road conditions, and limited daylight. Drinking any amount of alcohol before driving increases crash risk among teen drivers as compared with older drivers, and teen drivers have a much higher risk for being involved in a crash than older drivers at the same blood alcohol concentration (BAC), even at BAC levels below the legal limit for adults.3 Not only do teens have less experience with drinking, but alcohol typically has a stronger effect on young people. Additionally, a study by the National Institute of Health found that in general teens are four times more likely to engage in distracted and risky driving behaviors, such as texting, rapid acceleration, sudden braking, and hard turns.4
Idaho teens report driving impaired or riding with impaired drivers
You’d hope that your child would know not to drive under the influence or ride with someone who is, but you might be surprised. Of Idaho high school students surveyed in 2019:
- 13% reported they had ridden with a driver who has been drinking, and
- nearly 4% said they’d driven after drinking alcohol.5
In a separate 2019 survey of Idaho 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, nearly 11% said they’d ridden with a driver who had been using marijuana.6
Tips to keep your child safe on the road year-round
- Talk to your child about drinking. Kids cite their parents’ disapproval of underage drinking as the #1 reason they don’t drink. Help your child understand that most Idaho youth choose not use drugs or alcohol, and to encourage them to stay sober.
- Share the risks of driving impaired
- Legal—fines and jail time, loss of driver’s license
- Physical—injury or death to themselves, a friend, or an innocent person or family
- Explain how alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs can impact driving abilities, from diminished reaction times and coordination to weaving to crashes. View more detail here.
- Plan ahead
- Contact host parents to ensure there will be no access to alcohol or drugs during social gatherings.
- Offer to be your child’s ride home.
- Be a role model. If you plan to drink while you’re out, arrange for a designated driver ahead of time. If you’re hosting, offer alcohol-free options and call a cab or rideshare for guests who have been drinking.
- Share the Idaho Office of Drug Policy and Idaho Transportation Department’s campaign to encourage teens and young adults to drive sober: shift-idaho.org/beheretomorrow.
We wish you a happy and safe holiday season!
1. Buzzed Driving Prevention Fact Sheet, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
2. Holiday Traffic Fatality Estimate: New Years Day and Christmas Day, National Safety Council
3. “Teen Drivers: Get the Facts,” Centers for Disease Control
4. “Here’s what puts teen drivers at greatest risk of a crash,” Science News for Students
5. Youth Risk Behavior Survey: A Healthy Look at Idaho Youth (2019), Idaho State Department of Education
6. Idaho Healthy Youth Survey 2019 State Report, Idaho Office of Drug Policy