While New Year's Eve may conjure images of a celebratory toast, it's also traditionally one of the worst days of the year for alcohol related car crashes and deaths for young drivers. And new data from a 2011 teen driving study by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) reveals an interesting yet cautionary anomaly: Teens believe New Year's Eve is the most dangerous time of year to drive, yet it also is the holiday or event when teens most frequently drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
According to the survey of nearly 2,300 eleventh and twelfth graders, when teen drivers were asked about how dangerous they feel certain events are for driving and the likelihood of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs on one of these events, New Year's Eve topped both lists.
he silver lining? Passengers have a powerful influence over drivers.
The large majority of teen drivers say that they would stop driving under the influence of alcohol (94 percent) or marijuana (90 percent) if asked by a passenger. Interestingly, teen passengers say they would be significantly more likely to ask a peer to stop driving after drinking than after using marijuana (87 percent vs. 72 percent), and female passengers are more likely to speak up against either driving behavior than boys (90 percent vs. 83 percent for alcohol; 78 percent vs. 65 percent for marijuana).
"New Year's Eve is a time to celebrate both the past year and the possibilities of the year to come, yet far too often poor decisions by teens result in tragic injuries and deaths," said Stephen Wallace, Senior Advisor for Policy, Research, and Education at SADD. "To avoid a fatal start to the New Year, teen passengers need to use their voices if they have concerns about their friends' behaviors. They will be heard."
Family Driving Rules Parents, too, can play an important role to ensure safety is top of mind on New Year's Eve. Liberty Mutual/SADD research shows that clear driving ground rules, with mutually agreed upon expectations, consequences and rewards, are effective in curbing unsafe driving behaviors by teens. The Parent/Teen Contract at LibertyMutual.com/TeenDriving offers families a starting place to begin the safe driving conversation and set those rules.
"Prior to New Year's Eve, parents need to have a conversation with their teen drivers about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and fatigue as well as how to be a good driver and a good passenger," said Dave Melton, a driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual and managing director of global safety. "Teens also need to be prepared for dangerous behaviors of other drivers who will be impaired on New Year's Eve. Having this important conversation provides an opportunity for parents to share their concerns and determine rules and consequences that help their teen driver make healthy, safe choices for themselves and their friends, so they don't become another headline."
About the Study
Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD commissioned ORC International, an InfoGroup Company, to conduct a qualitative and quantitative study to measure teen driving attitudes and behaviors. The study was initiated with a series of four focus groups held in Harrisburg, Pa., and San Francisco, Calif., in October 2010, followed by a survey of 2,294 teens in eleventh and twelfth grades from 28 recruited high schools across the country in January 2011. Overall findings for the study can be interpreted with a 95 percent confidence interval with an error margin of +/- 2.02 percent.