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April 24, 2013
The coming months will be filled with celebration as millions of teenagers mark prom and graduation as the end of a school year or even their high school careers and launch into the more relaxed summer months. Unfortunately, some combine their freedom and carefree attitude with reckless actions making prom, graduation, and the Fourth of July among the most dangerous times of the year for teenage driving. According to U.S. Census data there are 13 million driving-aged teenagers and, with 23 percent of teens admitting to driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs, as many as 3 million impaired teen drivers may be taking to the roads during the upcoming months, according to a new survey from Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions).
Ironically, the large majority of teens (91 percent) consider themselves to be “safe/cautious” drivers. Yet many teens don’t even consider alcohol, marijuana or other drugs a distraction or deterrent to their driving ability. Of teens who admit to drinking and driving, nearly 40 percent claim that alcohol has no impact on or even improves their driving. Perhaps even more concerning is that among teens who admit to driving under the influence of marijuana, the large majority (75 percent) feel the same way. With more than 3,000 teen driving deaths each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD urge parents to have potentially life-saving conversations with their teens before it's too late.
“The end of the school year and the summer months are exciting times for teens, but they are also the most dangerous,” says Dave Melton, a driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and managing director of global safety. “A celebratory toast can quickly lead to serious consequences down the line. These new data illustrate that there is clearly a strong need to increase the level of education around safe driving. More importantly, it’s a flag for parents to make sure they talk to their kids regularly about the importance of safe driving behavior.”
Do teens find driving under the influence distracting? According to the survey, about one in four teens who have driven under the influence of marijuana (25 percent) or prescription drugs (23 percent), and about one in seven teens who report drinking and driving (14 percent), say “not at all.” This cavalier attitude toward driving under the influence is made more somber in light of recent data from the Governors Highway Safety Association which found an alarming 19 percent increase in the number of teen driver deaths (ages 16 and 17) in the first half of 2012.
“The fact that an overwhelming number of teens admit to extremely unsafe driving habits and completely dismiss any risk concern yet still consider themselves safe drivers means either teens have a different definition of ‘safe’ or we need to do a better job of educating kids about the dangers of this type of behavior,” added Melton.
Spring Events and Summer Driving
According to the survey findings, about one in ten teens (11 percent) reports driving under the influence of alcohol during the summer. The coming months are punctuated with a series of celebratory events that often involve the use of alcohol or other drugs. During prom and graduation season, Fourth of July, and the weeks before school resumes in the fall, as many as 1.4 million teens could be driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
Teens that have driven under the influence of alcohol and other drugs during or after one of these events/times:
A Critical Role for Parents and Schools
The good news is that more than 90 percent of teens say their school has a program or policy in place to deter illegal behavior, the most common being security guards or police. Additionally, the use of breathalyzers at school events is up nearly 25 percent. While school programs play an important role in keeping teens from engaging in illegal activities, and these programs have increased in recent years, speaking with your teen at home about the importance of safe driving is more critical than ever.
“School programs can only go so far,” says Stephen Wallace, senior advisor for policy, research, and education at SADD. “For example, we know that teens are more likely to drink around events such as Fourth of July, which are less supervised than prom or graduation. It is up to parents to talk to their teens about the dangers of driving under the influence. The Parent/Teen Driving Contract is a great way to start important conversations with your teen.”
Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD encourage parents to have a conversation with their teen about responsible driving and sign a Parent/Teen Driving Contract. The customized agreement enables you to create and uphold family driving rules, especially during this dangerous time of year. For more information about safe teen driving and to download a contract, visit www.LibertyMutual.com/TeenDriving .
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 100 list of largest U.S. corporations, based on 2011 revenue. The company employs over 50,000 people in more than 900 offices throughout the world.
The sixth-largest auto and home insurer in the U.S., Liberty Mutual (libertymutual.com) sells full lines of coverage for automobile, homeowners, valuable possessions, personal liability, and individual life insurance. The company is an industry leader in affinity partnerships, offering car and home insurance to employees and members of more than 14,000 companies, credit unions, professional associations and alumni groups.
Deborah Burke Henderson