With approximately 13 million licensed teenage drivers in the U.S., it's disturbing that more than one in ten (12 percent) report driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs on New Year's Eve.
According to a new survey from Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), New Year's Eve is the most common night of the year for teens to get behind the wheel after drinking or using other drugs. What's more, teens already know this is a hazardous time to be on the road: of the more than 1,700 teens surveyed, 49 percent consider driving on New Year's as very or extremely dangerous. And parents may not be helping to curb this behavior, as findings suggest parental consent to teenage drinking is also on the rise.
"There are approximately 3,000 teenage driving-related deaths a year, a third of which involve alcohol," says Dave Melton, a driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insuranceand managing director of global safety. "Parents have to play an active role in preventing underage drinking. Talk to your kids before New Year's celebrating begins and make sure they understand the importance of making smart, and possibly life-saving, decisions."
According to 2012 survey findings, parents have become more accepting of alcohol usage by their teenage children compared to 2010 and 2011 data. Despite more than 150 cities or counties and 24 states adopting laws which hold social hosts liable for serving alcohol to minors, nearly half (47 percent) of teens are allowed by their parents to go to parties where alcohol is served and 15 percent say they are allowed to host parties with alcohol. Additionally, 37 percent say they are allowed to drink when their parents are present and 29 percent report that they are allowed to drink unsupervised.
"Many adults have a 'been there, done that' mentality when it comes to the issue of impaired driving among teens. Yet, research points out that a majority of their children know that this is a timely and important issue," said Stephen Wallace, senior advisor for policy, research, and education at SADD. "Ask your teen to make a New Year's resolution to avoid underage drinking and to stay out of cars with impaired drivers."
Starting the Conversation
The good news is that teens know when to speak up. Eighty-seven percent of surveyed teens will ask a driver under the influence of alcohol to refrain from driving, demonstrating that teens understand the negative consequences of unsafe driving and aren't afraid to ask drivers to stop their risky behavior. Equally important, 92 percent of teen drivers say they would stop driving under the influence of alcohol if asked by a passenger, indicating there is even more opportunity for teens to encourage safe behaviors among their friends.
"The best thing a parent can do is have an open and ongoing dialogue with their children about drinking and driving," says Melton. "Talk through the dangers of reckless decisions and help your kids understand that the conversation isn't punitive, it's preventative. I would also encourage all parents and teens to sign the Parent/Teen Driving Contract as a first step toward lifelong safe driving habits, and for parents to make sure to model responsible behavior themselves."
About the Study
Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD commissioned ORC International to conduct a qualitative and quantitative methodology to measure teen driving attitudes and behaviors. The study was initiated with a series of four focus groups held in Boston, Mass., and Atlanta, Ga., from January 30 - February 1, 2012, followed by a survey of 1,708 eleventh and twelfth graders from across the country. Overall the findings from the study can be interpreted at a 95 percent confidence interval with an error margin of + 2.16 percent. Error margins for subsets such as licensed drivers will be wider.
SADD, the nation's leading peer-to-peer youth education, prevention, and activism organization, is committed to empowering young people to lead initiatives in their schools and communities. Founded in 1981, today SADD has thousands of chapters in middle schools, high schools, and colleges. SADD highlights prevention of many destructive behaviors and attitudes that are harmful to young people, including underage drinking, other drug use, risky and impaired driving, and teen violence and suicide. To become a Friend of SADD or for more information, visit sadd.org, parentteenmatters.org or follow SADD on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
About Liberty Mutual Insurance
"Helping people live safer, more secure lives" since 1912, Boston-based Liberty Mutual Insurance is a diversified global insurer and the third largest property and casualty insurer in the U.S. based on 2011 direct premiums written as reported by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Liberty Mutual Insurance also ranks 84th on the Fortune 500 list of largest U.S. corporations based on 2011 revenue. The company has over 50,000 employees located in more than 900 offices throughout the world.