Teen drunk driving declines as gas prices rise

There’s a serious upside to high gasoline prices: a significant decrease in teenagers driving while drunk.

The number of high school students who say they’ve gotten behind the wheel while drunk is down 54% from two decades ago, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, about 10.3% of teen drivers said they drove while intoxicated, down from 22.3% in 1991.

A primary reason is simply that teenagers spent less time on the road.

“Teens are especially sensitive to increases in gasoline prices and declines in economic conditions, which might have decreased their miles driven since 2007,” the report said.


Other reasons included laws monitoring drinking age and retailer compliance checks, according to the CDC, which used national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys to compile its report.

The drawn-out process for teens to earn driver’s licenses in many states — including extended learning periods — and restrictions on nighttime driving and transporting young passengers also helped, the CDC said.

The number of high school seniors that didn’t drive during an average week was 22% in 2010, the report said. It was 15% in 2000.

Teenagers had fewer jobs to drive to. The recession wiped out 2.7 million jobs for young workers, leaving a Chicago-size hole in the employment market for 16- to 24-year-olds, according to a report this summer from the advocacy group Young Invincibles.


Crunched for funds, high school students might find it difficult to come up with gas money. The average nationwide price for a gallon of regular gas was $3.78 on Tuesday, up from $3.42 a year ago, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.

The CDC study also found that of the teens who said they drove while inebriated, nearly 85% also binge-drank.

There were differences among sexes and races. Male students were more likely than females to drink and drive, the study said. Whites and Latinos drank and drove more often than African Americans.