The findings of new research highlight the serious risk that teens, children and young adults face of being involved in an auto accident, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
In a study published this month in the medical journal Pediatrics, researchers indicate that even if teens are not the ones drinking and driving, more than a quarter of fatal teen accidents involve a drunk driver. The study also highlights that teens face the greatest risk of dying in an auto accident on the weekends.
Researchers evaluated data from nearly 85,000 car crash fatalities involving individuals under the age of 20. The accidents included at least one driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher, and occurred across the U.S. from 2000 to 2013. Researchers also assessed alcohol restriction policies across the U.S., assigning states a score on the alcohol policy scale in relation to laws.
More than 11,000 deaths involved the driver of the vehicle and about 43% of car crashes killed passengers. Another 10% of the accidents killed pedestrians, cyclists and others.
Research has shown car crashes are a leading cause of death among young people in the U.S. Among those killed, more than 72% were male, more than half were non-Hispanic white and 65% were between the ages of 18 and 20.
Study authors indicated states with restrictive alcohol policies were associated with fewer deaths. Laws that helped to reduce alcohol-related car crash deaths included zero tolerance laws for any level of alcohol in the bloodstream, restricted hours for driving, and restricted hours for buying liquor.
Fatalities were the least likely in states with the toughest laws.
Researchers scored the various states based on alcohol restrictiveness on a scale from 1 to 100, 100 being the most restrictive. Iowa scored the lowest at 24 at the beginning of the study. Utah scored the highest at 75, near the end of the study.
Study authors noted each 10 point increase in the score was associated with a nine percent lower risk of fatalities.
“More restrictive alcohol policies are associated with reduced alcohol-related motor vehicle crash mortality among young people,” wrote study authors.
Researchers say teen fatalities can be avoided by reducing drive time during the most dangerous hours on the weekend. It is also important to teach teen drivers to avoid erratic drivers who may be drunk. Teach them to watch for speed fluctuations, hard braking, increased lane deviations and swerving. All are indicators of a potentially inebriated driver.