Drop in drinking and driving among youth and young adults over past 12 years

Thursday, December 10, 2015

An article in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), indicates that the prevalence of drinking and driving among persons aged 16 to 20 declined 59 percent from 2002 to 2014. The report, based on data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows self-report drinking and driving patterns among people in this age group dropped from 16.2 percent in 2002 to 6.6 percent in 2014. There was a 38 percent decrease in drinking and driving among those aged 21 to 25 during this period – from 29.1 percent in 2002 to 18.1 percent in 2014.

The findings also show that during the same period there was a 39 percent decrease in driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana combined among youth and young adults aged 16 – 25. The rate dropped from 2.3 percent in 2002 to 1.4 percent in 2014 among people 16 – 20 years of age, and from 3.1 percent to 1.9 percent in people aged 21 to 25.

“The decline in driving under the influence of alcohol, and alcohol and marijuana combined, among youth and young adults is encouraging, and may in part be due to greater outreach and law enforcement efforts,” said Acting SAMHSA Administrator Kana Enomoto. “However, any use of alcohol or illegal substances while driving is a continued public health concern, particularly during this holiday season when many families and friends are traveling to social gatherings that often include alcohol as part of the festivities.”

The report also shows that drinking and driving among those under the legal minimum drinking age of 21 occurs as early as 16 years and that percentages increase with age, peaking at just around 21 years of age, which is the legal minimum drinking age.

SAMHSA supports a wide range of state- and community-based grant programs to prevent underage drinking, drug use, and their related consequences (e.g., HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C).

In addition to the Substance Abuse Block Grant, targeted efforts also include programs such as:

  • the Partnerships for Success;
  • Minority AIDS Initiative; and
  • the STOP Underage Drinking Act grant programs.

SAMHSA has also developed tips for parents and other caring adults seeking tips on how to effectively talk with young people about preventing underage drinking. These tips are available at: http://www.samhsa.gov/talk-they-hear-you/parent-resources/five-conversation-goals. To assist practitioners in their prevention programming, SAMHSA offers several resources, which are posted online at http://www.samhsa.gov/prevention and http://www.samhsa.gov/capt/.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on the risks of diving under the influence at: http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/index.html.

For more information about SAMHSA and NSDUH please visit: http://www.samhsa.gov.

For more information, contact the SAMHSA Press Office at 240-276-2130.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

Last Updated: 12/10/2015