Drunk driving deaths drop below 10,000 for first time since 2011
Today, MADD learned that the number of drunk driving fatalities on our nation’s roadways dropped below 10,000 for the first time since 2011. According to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 9,967 fatalities involving an alcohol impaired driver in 2014 (compared to 10,076 in 2013), accounting for 31 percent of all traffic fatalities. Yet NHTSA also noted that overall traffic deaths for the first half of 2015 are up as much as 8.1 percent. This is troubling, especially given that the holiday season is upon us, one of the most dangerous times of the year for drunk driving.
While the 2014 decline in drunk driving fatalities is welcome news, there is still much to be done to create a future of No More VictimsTM. As a nation, we must stop these senseless tragedies.
Today, MADD issues a national call to action and challenges every state to pass all-offender ignition interlock laws and improve existing laws to ensure all offenders use an ignition interlock as soon as possible after a drunk driving offense. Ignition interlock laws are a key feature of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®. Since the Campaign was launched in 2006, drunk driving deaths are down by 26 percent. The newly released NHTSA data shows a continued decline in states with ignition interlock laws; such as Arizona, which has experienced a 50 percent reduction in drunk driving fatalities since its law passed in 2007. Drunk driving fatalities in West Virginia have dropped 40 percent since 2008; and other states – such as Oregon, Washington and Hawaii – have had reductions of 25 to 33 percent.
MADD also encourages every law enforcement agency to participate in NHTSA’s upcoming Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign to increase enforcement during the holidays. Law enforcement plays a pivotal role in preventing drunk driving, and MADD applauds their tireless work to protect the public during the holidays and year-round.
The public can also plan ahead for a safe ride home this holiday season and show their support for law enforcement by participating in MADD’s Tie One On For Safety® campaign. For more information, visit madd.org/toofs.
Recently, several high-profile news articles have brought new attention to underage drinking. In Washington, D.C., a local high school principle sent an email to parents imploring them to not provide alcohol to underage students. Also in Washington, a former high school quarterback was charged with vehicular manslaughter after leaving a house party where a seemingly knowing parent allowed underage drinking to occur. And finally, a ballot initiative was just filed in California to lower the drinking age from 21.
MADD is committed to the health and safety of our young people. We applaud Walt Whitman High School Principal Alan Goodwin for taking a stand and encouraging parents to stop underage drinking. Parents are the biggest influence on their children, and this program will help keep your child safe, and we have proven tools like the Power of Parents that can help.
MADD takes our mission to prevent underage drinking seriously, and we want to remind parents and teens that the consequences of underage drinking can be devastating. The 21 minimum drinking age is one of the most researched and reviewed public health laws in our country. Recent studies show that the adolescent brain is continuing to develop until young people reach their mid-twenties. It is important that we continue to support the 21 drinking age to keep our children safe and healthy.
Underage drinking is an adult problem. In order for those under 21 to obtain alcohol, an adult somewhere must break the law. For parents who provide or permit underage drinking in their home, the episode in Washington is stark reminder of the consequences. Not only was the father given a citation of $5,000, which could have been $60,000, but two young people lost their lives. All of this is 100 percent preventable.
Some parents still believe that “all kids drink underage” and that “it’s safer under my watchful eye.” After all, Europeans drink at age 18 and their society is flourishing, right? These three myths couldn’t be further from the truth.
The truth is, the majority of teens don’t drink. In fact, less than 30 percent of teens have had a drink in the past month. And only 20 percent of teens binge drink. So, not everyone is doing it! Research proves it’s never safe to let children drink.
And when teens feel they have their parents’ approval to drink alcohol, they tend to drink more — and more often — outside the home. What seemed harmless at first often results in tragic consequences that even parents don’t anticipate.
Finally, in Europe, young people have higher intoxication rates than in the United States, and less than a quarter had lower or equivalent rates to the United States. Also, a greater percentage of young people in a majority of Europe report binge drinking at higher rates than their U.S counterparts. Most European youth have higher rates of alcohol-related problems because of their heavy drinking.
MADD continues to speak out about the dangers of underage drinking. We have made too much progress to see effective laws like the 21 drinking age discarded. We encourage you to support the 21 drinking age and talk to your kids about the dangers of underage drinking. Together, we can make a difference and end underage drinking.
Parental influence is the most important factor in helping keep kids safe, and MADD’s Power of Parents® program focuses on educating parents and caregivers about the dangers of underage drinking, and provides them the tools they need to talk with their kids about alcohol. Visit madd.org/powerofparents to download our Parent Handbook and get tips and tools to help you have this lifesaving conversation about alcohol with your kids.
In a recent trip to Little Rock, Arkansas, I had a chance to visit students from five of the six schools that make up the Little Rock School District. The enthusiasm and energy of young people is contagious and is ALWAYS an inspiration to me. These students are our future. It was a joy to see MADD Arkansas in action, educating the high-school students on MADD’s Power of You(th) program, helping them learn about the dangers of underage drinking, and letting them know that it’s never okay to get into a car with an impaired driver.
I always love seeing the light bulbs go off when the kids understand the message, and these kids got it. 75 students were specially selected to attend these Power of You(th) training sessions. We hope that these students will take our message, and bring it back to their schools to activate change among other students. Sharing this message with a friend is an effective and powerful way that youth can make a difference.
I also had a chance to meet with volunteers, victims, survivors and staff. It’s motivating for me to hear their stories and know what MADD means in their lives. I want to give a special thank you to the Little Rock School District, as well as Marrecca Lawson, Pamela Sell and the rest of MADD Arkansas for making a difference in their community.
We empowered young people that day in Little Rock – and I know that they will spread the message of NO MORE VICTIMS.
This is a guest post written by Brittney Hultgren M.S., a Graduate Assistant at Pennsylvania State University and coauthor of a paper on factors that can influence adolescents' decisions to ride with drinking drivers.
Each year hundreds of passengers are killed in car crashes with drivers who had been drinking.1 The numbers could become higher. Our work shows nearly 1 in 4 college students ride with drinking drivers.2 Despite the prevalence of this high risk behavior, there has been very little research devoted to understanding why it occurs and how to change it from happening.
What can be done now?
Our research with college students suggests potential strategies to help reduce riding with drivers who are under the influence.2
- Parents- Our research showed that what parents do can be very influential. Parents should be made aware that when they get into cars with drivers who have been drinking they are also influencing their children’s decisions to be passengers in cars with drivers who have been drinking.
- Peers- Our research showed that peers have the potential to really impact their friends’ decisions to ride. One of the strongest predictors of students’ willingness to ride in cars with drivers who have been drinking was whether they thought their closest friends would approve or disapprove of them being passengers when the drivers have been drinking. #protecturfriends
What can we do for the future?
Riding with a drinking or drugged driver is an issue that affects our entire society, and therefore we need all levels of society to make strides to reduce it.
- Research- Our work suggests research is needed to answer the questions of Why do people decide to ride with someone who has been drinking or using drugs? and What can we do about it? Right now, there is very little research to fully answer these questions and inform the development of effective interventions.
- Schools and Social Media- While schools have been the traditional setting to provide students information about riding with drinking drivers, it is evident that students are consistently connected on social media. Thus, this may be a good avenue to target and reach them. MADD has done a great job at branching out in the social media world. Partnering schools with a social media approach could be an especially strong way to reach students both for research and prevention.
- Businesses- Businesses have the ability to promote behaviors, such as safe driving and alternatives to being a passenger in cars when drivers have been drinking. Fortunately, we have leaders such as State Farm who strongly encourage these behaviors and support programs like MADD and the scientists who work with MADD. We encourage more business leaders to partner with MADD and researchers to answer important questions and inform the development of effective interventions.
While there is much more work to be done to reduce riding with drinking and drugged drivers, there are many different parts of the solution. Step up and make a difference!
1 NHTSA. (2013). Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
2 Hultgren, B. A., Scaglione, N. M., Cleveland, M. J., & Turrisi, R. (2015). Examination of a dual process model predicting riding with drinking drivers. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 39(6): 1075-1082.
3 NHTSA. (2015). Fact sheet: National roadside survey of alcohol and drug use by drivers. Washington, DC.
4 Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2012). Monitoring the Future national results on adolescent drug use: Overview of key findings, 2011. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.
MADD is proud to announce the seven teens selected for the organization’s 2015-16 National Teen Influencer Group, serving as positive role models for choosing not to drink alcohol under the age of 21. These distinguished teens will help educate and motivate their peers, younger kids and even adults to take a stand against underage drinking, and to never ride with an impaired driver.
Congratulations to our 7 Teen Influencers! Learn about each Teen Influencer.
Several National Teen Influencers have experienced the devastating consequences not only of underage drinking, but also drunk driving or drugged driving. MADD’s National Teen Influencer Group provides a platform for these teens to not only empower those around them, but also to help save lives
MADD’s National Teen Influencer Group is part of the Power of You(th) program, sponsored by State Farm®, designed to equip teens with the information and resources to help them avoid drinking alcohol before 21.
For more information about the Power of You(th) program, or to download the teen booklet called The 411 on Teen Drinking, visit www.madd.org/powerofyouth.