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Parents Can Help Prevent Teen Drinking and Driving

  Friend stopping another teen from drinking and driving

Parents of teens often hold fears about the potential of teenage binge drinking and perhaps even more anxiety-producing, teen drinking and driving. It’s not only the fear of your own teen getting behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking, but also riding with others who are under the influence. It’s not an unwarranted fear for parents.

According to the results of the 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 16.5% of high students said they’d ridden with someone who’d been drinking alcohol within the previous month. Among students who could drive, 5.5% said they’d been behind the wheel when drinking alcohol during the 30 days before the survey. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and young adults, and almost ¼ of these are alcohol-related.

For parents, there may be more you can do than you think, however. A new study from Yale found that while binge drinking by teens is a strong predictor of risky behaviors, later including driving while impaired, teens also believe whether their parents approve or disapprove of alcohol use plays an important role in their consumption of alcohol.

Teen Drinking and Driving Statistics

Researchers at Yale analyzed data from the NEXT Generation Health Study and found protective effects of what was described as “parental monitoring” and teen’s awareness about their parents’ attitudes toward alcohol. The researchers followed 2,785 young people over a period of seven years to delve more into teen alcohol use and see what links there could be between parents’ attitudes and teen drinking and driving statistics or the likelihood of riding with a drunk driver.

By 12th grade, the study found 42% of young people had an alcoholic drink in the prior month. Around 25% reported at least one episode of binge drinking. Young people who reported binge drinking in the 12th grade were a couple of years later six times more likely to drive while impaired and four years later, more than twice as likely to drive while intoxicated.

However, the study found if 12th-grade teens knew their parents disapproved of drinking, it reduced the odds of driving while impaired by 30% four years later. It reduced the likelihood of driving with an impaired driver by 20% one year later. For parents who didn’t support the use of alcohol, the likelihood of later blackouts went down by 20%.

How Parents Can Help Prevent Teen Drunk Driving

When it comes to teen drunk driving, parents’ influence on teens may be more important than you think. Researchers said their takeaway message was that even though your child gets older and may want independence, you shouldn’t stop being intentional with your parenting and exerting your influence. The researchers said it’s essential to ask your teens where they’re going, who they’ll be with and how they spend their money.

Parents are encouraged to be mindful about how their teen is spending their time and stay connected with them. Talk openly with your teen not only about how they spend their time but your thoughts on alcohol and the risks associated with it.

Disapproving parents may be met with eye rolls but could also mean the difference between life or death for teens.

If you’d like to explore alcohol or substance use treatment programs for your teen, contact Next Generation Village today.


Mehar, Pranjal. “Parents can curb teen’s binge drinking and driving, study.” Tech Explorist, January 10, 2020. Accessed February 24, 2020.

Belli, Brita. “Yale-led team finds parents can curb teen drinking and driving.” Yale News, January 9, 2020. Accessed February 24, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Motor Vehicle Safety.” Accessed February 24, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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