One in three teens has taken a ride with a drunk driver

A survey carried out by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and State Farm has found that one in three U.S. teens has been a passenger with a drinking driver in the past year – and 22 per cent of these drinking drivers were friends under 21.

In 2013, 378 young people (ages 15-20) were killed as passengers of a drinking driver—202 (53%) deaths were a result of riding with an underage drunk driver.

“I know all too well the devastating consequences that can occur as a result of underage drinking,” said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church, whose 18-year-old son, Dustin, was killed while riding with an underage drunk and drugged driver. “We know that youth can either positively or negatively influence each other about alcohol. MADD is grateful to work with State Farm this October to keep our youth and entire communities safe from completely preventable consequences.”

Encouraging results from the MADD/State Farm survey showed that nearly all (90%) of the youth respondents would be willing to intervene with friends to help them not ride with a drinking driver, and 70 percent felt comfortable that their friendships would not at all be harmed by intervening.

The MADD/State Farm survey is consistent with the finds of a recent study from Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Biobehavioral Health, which shows that while most students don’t necessarily plan to ride with a drinking driver, they’re still at great risk to do so because they are ‘willing to’ should the occasion arise. According to the study, youth play a lead role in influencing friends’ choices to ride with drinking drivers. The stronger students think their friends will disapprove of them riding with drinking drivers, the less likely they will actually do it.

“One of the most effective ways to prevent students from riding with a drinking driver is to show them that they can – and should – play an active role in positively influencing each other about this risky behavior; versus passively approving or failing to act when their friends are getting in cars with drivers who have been drinking alcohol. The ones who continue to take a stand are the true heroes,” said Dr. Robert Turrisi, Pennsylvania State University.