Teen survey results: “As long as I can walk to the car, I’m ok to drive”

Sadly, a recent survey indicates that many high school teens are likely to be involved in serious auto accidents from drunk or impaired driving. However, the study also revealed that, despite knowing the dangers of drunk driving, many students admit that they do it anyway. But why?

The drunk driving survey

The survey was conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD, or Students Against Destructive Decisions. All teens who participated in the survey stated that they were aware of the dangers of drinking and driving, but the surveyed revealed a bit more about teens, alcohol, and driving habits.

About one in 10 teenagers surveyed admitted to "occasionally" driving after having an alcoholic drink. Further, 68 percent of teenagers admitted to "rarely" getting behind the wheel after having more than three alcoholic drinks-a number predicted to be much higher but wasn't.

But if teens know the dangers of drinking and driving, albeit from years of campaigning about its dangers, why do they still do it?

Defining impairment: teens versus adults

One potential reason for getting behind the wheel after drinking could be attributed to their lack of understanding about "impairment."

According to Dave Melton, managing director of global safety for Liberty Mutual in Boston, teenagers may not completely understand what "under the influence" really means.

"As long as they [feel like] they are able to walk to the car without falling down, they feel like they are not impaired," he stated.

Many adults understand that the "falling down test" doesn't define alcohol impairment by any means, but teens are different. It could be because of their maturity level and inexperience.

Melton also states that this thinking applies to designated drivers as well. Adults typically define a designated driver as one who refrains from drinking even one drop of alcohol, so he or she can drive the not-so-sober ones home. But the survey showed a different definition for teenagers. Teen survey participants indicated that a designated driver is someone who is essentially "the most sober of the group," not necessarily one who hasn't had any alcohol.

Sadly, the conclusion is simple. "There's a tremendous misunderstanding what it means to be under the influence," Melton said.

Unfortunately, this lack of understanding could be why teens are at a higher risk of getting into an auto accident. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a collision than drivers 20 years of age and older.