Young people, alcohol use and drink driving
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds in most industrialised countries. Boys tend to drink more (and more often) than girls, and also drink and drive on a more frequent basis. It is important to recognise how certain cultural differences can impact on these gender trends.
In certain areas, 30% of all traffic fatalities (among all age groups) are alcohol-related. Historically, the issue of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) tended to be less severe in developing countries, although as a result of continued economic development (particularly in South East Asia), the situation has started to worsen.
Aside from DUI, another significant problem is ‘riding with a drinking driver’ (RWDD) – an issue that reveals various psychological risk factors: lack of planning of trips, lack of resistance to peer pressure.
When examining the problems from a gender perspective, research has shown that boys tend to drink more (and more often) than girls, and also drink and drive on a more frequent basis. It is important to recognise how certain cultural differences can impact on these gender trends. For example, in some countries women are not allowed to drink and to drive, and conversely, in areas where feminism is strong (Scandinavia, Anglo-Saxon countries), the differences between the sexes is much smaller and shrinking (i.e. girls drink and do drunk driving more than before).
Efforts to reduce DUI among young people have mainly been done through legal sanctions that focus on reducing youth alcohol use in conjunction with driving. Specific legal limits of blood alcohol concentrations for young novice drivers during the first years of driving have also been implemented. Underage drinking (before the legal age) is another related issue that requires enforcement of sales practices (control of age).
In many cases, such approaches have proven to be effective (especially in Scandinavia and Ireland) although unfortunately we cannot rely only on these globally.
DUI and RWDD behaviour among young people is the result of internalised norms and values related to drinking and driving - often taken from parents and other sources of influence (e.g. peers, media). Young people form beliefs about DUI and RWDD and their potential consequences through observation of such behaviours by others (subjective norms) and from the expressed approval or disapproval of others (injunctive norms), as well as through direct personal experiences.
Considering this, traffic safety action in this field must impact on these psychological risk factors through various preventive strategies: social norms marketing (to counter subjective misperceptions), school programs, parents-based programs, peer-to-peer programs, designated drivers programs, mobility offers, actions on premises (server training, breathalysers), events-based programs, media campaigns, internet resources, and community programs.