Alcohol, Driving, and US Students

"In 2019, a total of 43.1% of U.S. high school students had not always worn a seat belt and 16.7% had ridden with a drinking driver during the 30 days before the survey (Table 1). Among the 59.9% of respondents who had driven a car or other vehicle during the 30 days before the survey, 5.4% had driven after drinking alcohol, and 39.0% had texted while driving.

"Both driving after drinking alcohol and texting while driving usually increased with age. Specifically, prevalence of driving after drinking alcohol was higher among students aged ≥18 years (8.9%) than among students aged 16 (4.0%), 15 (2.6%), or 14 (2.7%) years (Table 1). In addition, prevalence was higher among students aged 17 (5.9%) years than among those aged 15 (2.6%) years. For texting while driving, prevalence was higher among students aged ≥18 (59.5%) years than among students aged 17 (50.9%), 16 (30.5%), 15 (15.5%), or 14 (15.5%) years. Prevalence also was higher among students aged 17 years than among those aged 16, 15, or 14 years and higher among students aged 16 years than among those aged 15 or 14 years.

"Conversely, not always wearing a seat belt usually decreased with age. Prevalence of not always wearing a seat belt was lower among students aged ≥18 years (39.4%) than among students aged 16 (43.5%), 15 (46.9%), or 14 (45.7%) years. Similarly, prevalence was lower among students aged 17 years (38.9%) than among all younger students. For riding with a drinking driver, no differences occurred by age.

"Differences by race/ethnicity were detected for all four transportation risk behaviors but did not demonstrate a consistent pattern. Prevalence of not always wearing a seat belt was higher among black students (61.7%) than among Hispanic students (48.2%) or white students (36.6%). In addition, prevalence among Hispanic students was higher than among white students. For the alcohol-related transportation risk behaviors, Hispanic students (20.8%) had a higher prevalence of riding with a drinking driver than black students (15.9%) or white students (15.1%), and Hispanic students (6.6%) had a higher prevalence of driving after drinking alcohol than black students (4.1%). In contrast, prevalence of texting while driving was higher among white students (43.9%) than among black students (29.5%) or Hispanic students (35.2%). Students whose academic grades in school were mostly Cs, Ds, or Fs had a higher prevalence of not always wearing a seat belt (57.0%), riding with a drinking driver (20.1%), and driving after drinking alcohol (7.4%) than students whose academic grades in school were mostly As or Bs (38.8%, 15.3%, and 4.7%, respectively); however, prevalence of texting while driving did not differ by this characteristic.

"Few differences were identified when examining behaviors by sex and by sexual identity. Only alcohol-related transportation risk behaviors demonstrated differences. Among students who had driven during the 30 days before the survey, male students (7.0%) had a higher prevalence of driving after drinking alcohol than female students (3.6%). By sexual identity, students who were not sure of their sexual identity (21.9%) had a higher prevalence of riding with a drinking driver than heterosexual students (15.7%); however, the prevalence was not different from lesbian, gay, or bisexual students (19.2%)."

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Suggested citation for this article: Yellman MA, Bryan L, Sauber-Schatz EK, Brener N. Transportation Risk Behaviors Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019. MMWR Suppl 2020;69(Suppl-1):77–83.