Students find new drunk driving statistics surprising

By Benjamin Whitson |

When Cassidie Corwin, a junior at Flagler College, was in high school, she drank but never drove.

“I thought it was very unsafe,” Corwin said. “And I was afraid of the law.”

Still, Corwin, as well as other college students, finds it surprising that recent statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that there has been a major decrease in the amount of high school students ages 16 to 19 driving under the influence of alcohol. The report showed that in the past two decades the amount of teenagers driving drunk has reduced by 54 percent.

“I would have thought the opposite,” Corwin said. “In the past week I’ve had three friends be in accidents because of drinking and driving, one of them died.”

Corwin was not alone in her assumption. Benjamin Dozier, a certified paramedic and nursing student at St. Johns River State College, said he thought drinking and driving for high school students would have risen because of an upward trend of moral teen angst in the past 20 years.

“I went to high school in the early ’90s,” Dozier said. “Teens seem to be more out of sorts now. To me this equals more alcohol and drug abuse.”

The statistics disagree though. According to the CDC, 10.3 percent of teens reported drinking and driving in 2011, compared to 22.3 percent in 1991. Reasons of this, such as the raising of the age to purchase alcohol to 21 in all states, vary according to the report. Two other factors that have contributed to the decrease in drunk driving among teens, according to the CDC, are zero tolerance laws, which make it illegal for teens to have any alcohol in the body while driving, and the increase in graduated driving programs, which make the process of getting a drivers license more gradual for new drivers.

“We’ve seen teen driving fatalities fall by nearly 40 percent in nearly five years because of graduated drivers’ license laws as well as other interventions,” said CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Friedman as quoted by an Oct. 2 CNN article on the subject.

Corwin and Dozier have different views on which factors they thought have most contributed to the decrease.

Corwin said the zero tolerance rules are a deciding factor. “I think it scares students to not drink and drive,” Corwin said. “I wouldn’t do it if my license could be immediately taken away.”

Dozier says education is the most important factor. “Positive programs in school must have been helpful,” he said. “None of the people I knew who were doing drugs and drinking a lot back then really knew what the consequences could be. That information has been made readily available now.”

Friedman also stressed the importance of education in the CNN article. He noted the importance of the state, but particularly stressed the important role that parents play in the education of their children. He urged parents to set an example for their teens.

But whether it has been education, zero tolerance laws, the raising of the drinking age to 21, graduated drivers’ license laws, or simply the fact that less teens are driving, Corwin and Dozier both agree that the statistics put forth by the report are great news.

“It definitely is good news,” Dozier said. “Sometimes it’s good to be proven wrong.”

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