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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
(typically 0.02, compared with the adult limit of 0.08 or 0.10). Although alcohol-related youth motor vehicle fatalities have decreased substantially over the past decade or so, youth are still overrepresented in alcohol-related fatal crashes compared with the older population. In 2000, 69 percent of youths who died in alcohol-related traffic fatalities involved young drinking drivers. It remains a very serious issue with extreme consequences, not only for the young driver but also for innocent victims. While only 7 percent of licensed drivers in 2000 were aged 15 to 20, they represented approximately 13 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes who had been drinking (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2002b). According to Grunbaum et al. (2002), 38.3 percent of Latinos, 30.3 percent of whites, and 27.6 percent of African Americans in this age group rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol. And 14.7 percent of whites, 13.1 percent of Latinos, and 7.7 percent of African Americans aged 15 to 20 admitted to driving a car after drinking alcohol.
Alcohol-related traffic fatalities constituted almost 37 percent of all fatal youth traffic fatalities (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2002b). Youths who drive after drinking are more likely to be in a crash than youths who have not had a drink, and the crashes underage drinkers are involved in tend to be more severe than those of adults, resulting in a greater number of deaths and more serious injury. Underage drinkers present greater risks than adults when driving, even at lower BAC levels. More 19-year-olds died in alcohol-related crashes with relatively low BAC levels than any other age (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2002b).
When young people drink and get into a car, they also tend to make poor decisions that bear on their safety. For example, young people who have been drinking are less likely to wear a safety belt. They are more likely to get in a car with an intoxicated driver: 41 percent of frequent heavy drinkers reported riding with an intoxicated driver, compared with only 14 percent of those who never drank (Hingson and Kenkel, 2004). In alcohol-related traffic crashes, there were three times more deaths among young people who were not wearing their seat belts than among those who were wearing them. In sum, alcohol-related crashes involving underage drinkers are more likely to result in death and serious injury than those involving other drivers.
Homicide, Suicide, and Unintentional Injuries
Alcohol is implicated in a large proportion of unintentional deaths and injuries caused by other forms of dangerous behavior than driving. In 1999, nearly 40 percent of people under age 21 who were victims of drownings, burns, and falls tested positive for alcohol. Youth constituted 7 percent of