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Drunk Driving
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Between 2003 and 2005 the percent of high school males who report driving after drinking dropped slightly, from 15 percent to 12 percent, continuing an ongoing trend. (See Figure 2)


Alcohol use among youth is associated with a wide variety of risky behaviors,1 including driving while under the influence of alcohol. The American Medical Association reports that "all alcohol consumption, even at low levels, has a negative impact on driver skills, perceptions, abilities, and performance and poses significant health and safety risks."2 In addition, drivers who have been drinking are less likely to use seat belts.3

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young drivers (15- to 20- year olds).4 In 2002, twenty four percent of young drivers who were killed in an automobile accident had been drinking and were legally intoxicated.5 Drinking and driving or riding in a car with someone who has been drinking are clearly significant health risks for America's youth.


The percentage of high school students who reported riding in a car in the past month with someone who had been drinking dropped from 37 percent in 1997 to 29 percent in 2005. Similarly, the percentage of students who reported driving after drinking has dropped from 17 percent in 1997 to 10 percent in 2005. (See Figure 1)

Male students are more likely than females to report driving after drinking alcohol. See Figure 2) In 2005, 12 percent of high school males reported driving after drinking alcohol, compared with 8 percent of females. (See Table 2)

Differences by Gender

Male and female students report similar rates of riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol (27 percent and 30 percent, respectively, in 2005). Male students, however, are more likely than females to report driving after drinking alcohol. (See Figure 2) In 2005, 12 percent of high school males reported driving after drinking alcohol, compared with 8 percent of females. This difference exists for all racial and ethnic groups. (See Table 2)

Differences by Race and Ethnicity6

Hispanic students are more likely than non-Hispanic white and black students to report riding in a car with a driver who had been drinking alcohol (36 percent versus 28 percent and 24 percent, respectively, in 2005). (See Table 1) Non-Hispanic white students and Hispanic students are more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic black students to report driving after drinking alcohol (11 percent, respectively, versus 5 percent in 2005). (See Table 2)

Differences by Grade

The percentage of high school students who drive drunk is higher among older students than it is among younger students. In 2005, the percent of students who drove after drinking nearly triples from sixth to 12th grade (6 percent in the ninth grade (when few students have licenses) to 17 percent by grade 12). (See Figure 3)

Related Indicators

Binge Drinking, Seat Belt Use

State and Local Estimates

2005 estimates of drinking and driving among high school students (Grades 9-12) are available for select states and cities from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), Table 5 at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5505a1.htm

International Estimates

None Available

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National Goals

Through its Healthy People 2010 initiative, the federal government has set a national goal to reduce the number of high school students who report riding with a driver who had been drinking from a 1999 baseline of 33 percent to 30 percent by 2010. To reach this goal, the government encourages school-based and community programs that work to reduce adolescent drinking and driving and increase law enforcement.

More information is available at: http://www.health.gov/healthypeople/document/html/objectives/26-06.htm (See Goal 26-6)

What Works: Programs and Interventions that May Influence this Indicator

Click here to view examples of programs and interventions that research has evaluated for this indicator. View programs

Research References

1National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 1997. "Youth Drinking: Risk Factors and Consequences." Alcohol Alert NO. 37. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa37.htm

2"AMA Policies on Alcohol: Operating Vehicles Under the Influence of Alcohol or Other Drugs -- Underage Drinking and Driving." American Medical Association, Office of Alcohol/Drug Abuse, May 8, 2002: H-30.945. Available online at http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/388/underage_drnkndrive.pdf

3"Traffic Safety Facts 2002: Young Drivers." U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: DOT HS 809 619. Available online at http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-30/NCSA/TSF2002/2002ydrfacts.pdf

4Marin, Pilar S. and Brown, Brett V. (2005). Are Teens Driving Safer? Child Trends, Cross Currents, October 2005 (4). Available online at: http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/PDF/teen%20driving.pdf

5"Teen Tipplers: America's Underage Drinking Epidemic." The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, Revised February 2003. Available online at http://www.casacolumbia.org/pdshopprov/files/Teen_Tipplers_February_26_2003.pdf

6Race/ethnicity estimates from 1999 and later are not directly comparable to earlier years due to federal changes in race definitions. In surveys conducted in 1999 and later, respondents were allowed to select more than one race when selecting their racial category. Estimates presented here only include respondents who selected one category when choosing their race.


Students are asked if they "rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol" or "drove after drinking alcohol" one or more times in the last thirty days.

Data Source

Data for 1991: YRBSS: Youth Online, Comprehensive Results. Retrieved May 24, 2004 from URL: http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/yrbss/.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Surveillance Summaries,
Data for 1993: March 24 1995. MMWR 1995; 44(No. SS-1): Table 2. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00036855.htm#00001016.htm
Data for 1995: September 27, 1996. MMWR 1996; 45 (No. SS-4): Table 2. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00043812.htm#00001916.htm
Data for 1997: August 14, 1998. MMWR; 47(No. SS-3): Table 2. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00054432.htm#00003343.htm
Data for 1999: June 9, 2000. MMWR 2000; 49(No. SS-5): Table 4. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss4905a1.htm#tab4
Data for 2001: June 28, 2002. MMWR 2002; 51(No. SS-4): Table 4. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5104a1.htm#tab4
Data for 2003: May 21, 2004. MMWR 2004; 53(No. SS-2): Table 4. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5302a1.htm#tab4
Data for 2005: June 9. 2006. MMWR 2006. 55 (No. SS-5); Table 4. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5505a1.htm

Raw Data Source

Youth Risk Behavior Survey http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/yrbs/index.htm

Approximate Date of Next Update

Summer 2008

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Trends &
Subgroup Differences
Related Indicators
State, Local &
International Estimates
National Goals
What Works: Programs that May Influence this Indicator
Definition, Data
& Next Update

Supporting Figures
Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3

Supporting Tables
Table 1
Table 2
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