Alcohol-impaired driving crimes go up soon after reaching drinking age: Study

Those aged 12–20 years drink 11 percent of the overall alcohol consumed in the United States, and over 90 percent of this alcohol intake is in the form of binge drinks, according to a 2015 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Nearly 30 people die every day in motor vehicle accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver in the U.S. A researcher from Canada’s Northern Medical Program (NMP) carried out a study to illustrate the significant rise in alcohol-impaired driving crimes among underage drinkers as soon as they reach the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA).

In a recent study, published in the journal Addiction in 2016, lead author Dr. Russ Callaghan, an associate professor in the NMP, and his colleagues reviewed the crime statistics in Canada, over the period of 2009–2013. They found that alcohol-impaired driving crimes were frequently seen among drivers who were just older than the legal age, compared to those immediately under the restriction.

Thus, alcohol-impaired driving offenses committed by young drivers were associated with release from drinking age restrictions, with the number of incidences ranging from 28 to 43 percent among males and 19 to 40 percent among females.

‘Lower legal drinking age encourages alcohol-related problems’

A lower legal drinking age arguably encourages alcohol-related problems, including frequent traffic crashes, among those under age 21. At present, the minimum legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21 years.

Callaghan said, “As soon as youth are given legal access to alcohol, there are immediate effects on the road. The number of police-reported alcohol-impaired driving incidents involving both male and female drivers who have just reached the legal drinking age rises dramatically, which illustrates the impact that alcohol-related legislation can have on alcohol-impaired driving crimes and overall public health.”

According to the CDC, youth who start drinking before the age of 14 are five times more likely to get injured while under the influence of alcohol, 6.3 times more likely to be a part of a motor vehicle crash, and six times more likely to be a part of a fight, as compared to the youth who begin drinking after the age of 21.

“Our research provides current information for both Canadian and international policymakers to draw on when considering alcohol policy reform and the effectiveness of MLDA legislation. Drinking-age laws can have major consequences on driving safety and are an important part of contemporary alcohol-control and driving-related policies designed to limit alcohol-impaired driving among young people,” Callaghan said.

Available treatment options

According to a report published in the Vital Signs, on average underage American drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers. In 2010 alone, there were approximately 189,000 emergency room visits by persons under 21 years for conditions linked to alcohol use.

However, researchers believe there are several factors that can help teens remain safe, with most important ones being minimum legal drinking age, graduated driver licensing systems and parental involvement. These proven steps can help safeguard the lives of young drivers by discouraging them from getting behind the wheel of a car.

Underage drunk driving will remain a disputable cause of major fatalities for as long as alcohol is made accessible to underage persons. If you or your loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction and is looking for necessary help, you may get in touch with the Alcohol Addiction Get Help Helpline for information regarding the right choice of alcohol addiction treatment centers. You may call our 24/7 helpline at 866-281-3014 or chat online with one of our representatives for information about alcohol addiction treatment centers in USA.