Booster Shots

Oddities, musings and news from the health world

« Previous Post | Booster Shots Home | Next Post »

Risky alcohol-related driving behavior increases at age 21

May 31, 2010 |  1:00 pm

Underage drinking is a widespread problem and includes risky behaviors like drinking and driving or being a passenger in a car with a driver who is impaired. But a study shows that college-age youths take even more alcohol-related driving risks than underage drinkers. The study found a sharp uptick when students turned 21 years old, the legal age for purchasing alcohol.

DrunkDriving Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Public Health recruited 1,253 first-year college students to participate in a four-year study examining drinking behaviors. They found that, among 20-year-olds, 8% drove after drinking any alcohol, 20% drove while intoxicated and 43% rode with an intoxicated driver. At age 21, 63% drove after drinking any alcohol, 25% drove while intoxicated and 49% rode with an intoxicated driver.

Other studies have shown that freshmen in college tend to drink more than upper-classmen. However, risky driving behavior related to alcohol appears to increase with age among college students, perhaps due to reaching the legal drinking age or more access to cars. The study should be considered in the national debate about lowering the legal drinking age to 18, said the lead author of the study, Amelia M. Arria, director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

"Our findings call into question the assertions of some advocates who claim that lowering the drinking age to 18 would be a useful strategy for reducing harm associated with alcohol consumption," Arria said in a news release. "The present findings are consistent with numerous prior studies showing that increased availability of alcohol is associated with a greater level of problems, especially underage drinking-and-driving fatal crashes."

The study was published Monday in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

— Shari Roan

Photo: High school students portray the living dead during the 'Every 15 Minutes' program, a staged drunk-driving accident to help illustrate the dangers of drinking and driving, in Roswell, N.M. Credit: Mark Wilson / Roswell Daily Record.

Post a comment
If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate.
Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Comments (2)

Looks like the study's authors have got it backwards. It does not validate keeping the drinking age at unrealistically high level. In fact, it seems to imply the opposite. But there's junk science for you.

Perhaps our country's misguided attempt to keep 18-20 year olds from drinking at all, which has clearly failed, is not the best way to prepare young adults for the reality of drinking that 90% of them will experience. All it is doing is delaying the inevitable at best, and making it more dangerous than it has to be at worst. If the drinking age was 18, young adults could get the partying out of their system before many of them get their first cars, and often while still living on campus. It would likely be done more safely than now, when it is done underground. There would be no need to go to far-off locations (which often involve drinking and driving) when they could drink in their dorms, apartments, or walk to and from the local bar. Then when they are a few years older, it would get to be "old hat" and there would be less desire to mix booze and car keys. If anything, this study is a good argument for lowering the drinking age to 18, like it is in virtually every other civilized nation on Earth.

As the late Ronald Reagan would say, "I can't help it, there you go again!"

Risky alcohol-related driving behavior increases at age 21? Thanks Captain Obvious!


The Latest | news as it happens

Recent Posts
test |  March 15, 2011, 4:00 pm »
Booster Shots has moved |  July 12, 2010, 6:02 pm »