A recent study suggests that the number of young drivers who are drinking and driving is declining.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drunk driving poses an especially greater threat for teenage drivers than it does for their older counterparts. Younger drivers in Alaska are at a higher risk of getting into an accident when looking at all levels of blood alcohol concentration.

Fortunately, a recent study states that drivers 25 and younger are actually driving drunk less now than they were roughly a decade ago. The data is encouraging, but it does not mean any efforts to further reduce impaired driving should stop.

By the numbers

The study was published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in December 2015. Researchers evaluated responses pulled from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in which more than 380,000 people answered questions about their habits during in-person interviews.

The study's authors then used that information to compare with numbers from 2002. As a result, they deduced that among 16- to 20-year-olds, there was a 59 percent drop in the number of drivers who had, at some point, consumed alcohol and driven. The decrease was 38 percent when looking at drivers 21 to 25 years old.

Those numbers reflect drinking alone. However, the numbers still drop when factoring marijuana impairment into the equation. For 16- to 20-year-olds, there was a 39 percent drop in marijuana and alcohol impairment, and a decline among 21- to 25-year-olds as well.

Explaining the change

The study suggests that the decline could be explained by the following:

  • Law enforcement members have taken more aggressive measures in preventing drunk driving.
  • There are zero-tolerance laws in place in many states, including Alaska.
  • Schools have launched more preventative measures.
  • Young people are, generally, drinking less.

Researchers also believe that graduated license programs played a role in reducing the amount of drunk driving that takes place among younger drivers.

Still an issue

Despite this progress, the fact remains that among 16- to 25-year-olds, the leading cause of death is a car crash. Though alcohol does not always play a role, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that 29 percent of the fatal accidents that claimed teenage drivers in 2013 involved a driver who had a BAC of 0.01 or higher. Even scarier, of those young drivers killed, 82 percent had a BAC at or above 0.08.

Parents should have open and honest conversations about drunk driving with their children. Offering to give young people a ride, no questions asked, may be helpful in discouraging them to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

When accidents do happen, victims in Alaska are able to hold negligent drivers accountable for their damages. People with concerns about this issue should speak with a personal injury attorney in Alaska.