Drunk driving can have serious consequences, including injury and death. If you’re an underage driver, you will be slammed with a DUI (driving under the influence) charge if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is 0.01% or higher; if you are underage, you cannot have any alcohol in your bloodstream when you are behind the wheel of a car.
Driving after drinking, even after just a couple drinks, impairs your reaction time, sense of spatial judgment, visual functions, and ability to attend to multiple things at once.1 The risks associated with impaired driving are high, and come at great cost to the driver, passengers, and anyone else that happens to be nearby.
These 6 facts will have you thinking twice before getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol.
#1. 1 in 3 driving-related deaths in the U.S. involves a driver with a BAC at or above the legal limit of 0.08%.2
Driving under the influence greatly increases the chances of crashes, injuries, and fatalities. When one-third of vehicular deaths are due to an intoxicated driver, you know there is a problem. In light of this startling statistic, underage drivers are not held to the 0.08% standard. Instead, they cannot have ANY alcohol in their system.
#2. Alcohol has been involved in 23% of fatal car crashes among 16 to 20 year olds.3
That 23% involves not only the death of the drivers, but potentially other people who did not have any say in that impaired driver’s decision to drink and drive. Vehicular accidents are the primary cause of death for teens in the U.S.,4 and compiling intoxication on top of the already high risk is flirting with disaster.
#3. The risk of being involved in an alcohol-related fatal vehicle accident is higher for younger drivers than for older drivers, no matter what the driver’s BAC is.5
While it is not exactly clear why this is the case, driving experience and distractibility play major roles in the discrepancy. Chatting with friends, rocking out to your favorite tune, and checking your phone are already taxing on our attention span while driving—add alcohol use on top of that already-high risk, and you have the makings of a potential life-altering scenario.
#4. Of fatal impaired driving accidents, 65% involved the death of the impaired driver, 16% killed passengers in the car with the drunk driver, and nearly 20% killed people who were pedestrians and other drivers on the road.6
When a driver chooses to drink then get behind the wheel of a car, they are risking not only their own life, but the lives of anyone else in the vehicle as well as everyone else on the streets—other drivers and pedestrians alike. These people do not have a say in your decision to drink and drive, and it is not okay to put other people at risk without their consent.
#5. An underage DUI will result in suspension of your license, major fines, and may have far-reaching consequences in your future employment and insurance opportunities.7
The U.S. has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to underage intoxicated driving: If you are underage, you cannot have any alcohol in your system while you are behind the wheel of a vehicle. If you’re caught driving with a BAC of 0.01% or above, you will face serious consequences.
The punishment details for an underage DUI will vary by state—some states may even impound your vehicle and require jail or juvenile detention time, even for first-time offenders. Every state will suspend your driver’s license and charge you with hefty fines, which will all go on your permanent record. This can affect employment and insurance decisions when it comes to background checks.
All of the underage DUI penalties are dependent on how high your BAC was and how many times you’ve been caught driving under the influence of alcohol. You must also consider the emotional and psychological consequences if you injure or kill somebody! It’s best to never do it in the first place.
#6. Drinking and driving is an active choice. Choose not to!
When it comes down to it, driving after you’ve been drinking is a voluntary thing with a conscious moral decision behind it. Choosing to get behind the wheel of a car after a couple drinks means that you have disregarded not only your own safety, but the safety of your passengers and any other person along your route.
Many people who drink and drive do not realize that there are other options to safely get to where you need to be. Rather than drinking and driving, utilize a designated driver service in your area. Opt to take a taxi, Lyft, or Uber to get to and from your destination—the cost of a ride will be much less than the cost of a DUI fine or court case.
In many cities there are also organizations that offer sober rides for anyone who needs them, especially on celebratory drinking nights such as New Years, St. Patrick’s Day, 4th of July, etc. If you go out and end up drinking, these services will give you a safe ride home and you can head back to pick up your vehicle in the morning with a clear conscience (despite the hangover). Some of these designated driver services will even help you get your own vehicle home in the same night! Every organization is different, but they all work hard to make sure everyone can enjoy themselves and get home safely at the end of the night.
The fact of the matter is that drinking and driving is just not worth the high risks and deadly consequences. Always consider your own safety, the safety of your friends, and the lives that of people that you don’t know that will be in danger before you get behind the wheel of a car.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Effects of Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC).
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sobering facts: Drunk driving state fact sheets.
- Mulye, T.P., Park, M.J., Nelson, C.D., Adams, S.H., Irwin, C.E., & Brindis C.D. (2009). Trends in adolescent and young adult health in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health, 45. 8-24.
- Blum, R.W. & Qureshi, F. (2011). Morbidity and mortality among adolescents and young adults in the United States. United States Census Bureau.
- Zador, P.L., Krawchuk, S.A., & Voas, R.B. (2000). Alcohol-related relative risk of driver fatalities and driver involvement in fatal crashes in relation to driver age and gender: an update using 1996 data. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 61(3). 387-395.
- Dept of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts 2013 Data: Alcohol-Impaired Driving. Washington (DC): NHTSA; 2014.
- California Department of Motor Vehicles. Young drivers.