Did you know?

Everyone in California pays when teens drink and drive. The consequences can be devastating: wasted lives, loss of loved ones, permanent disabling injuries, broken relationships, overwhelming medical bills and other expenses. California faces a challenge in preventing underage drinking and driving. According to the 1997-98 California Student Survey (CSS), the California Department of Justice reports a troubling increase in teen binge drinking and driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Adding to the challenge is an anticipated surge in teen population in the next decade. 

Almost 40 percent of 11th graders have driven after drinking, according to the 1997-98 CSS. Each year, more than 1,900 underage drinking drivers are involved in collisions, causing injuries or deaths in California. These drivers under the age of 21 are only 5.4% of the states drivers, but are responsible for 13% of the alcohol-related crashes. (Automobile Club of Southern California, 1999 report).

Even when a collision does not occur, there are still stiff economic consequences. A first-time misdemeanor conviction for driving under the influence can cost the driver approximately $11,000 in fines, legal fees, increased insurance costs and other related expenses over the three years following arrest. (Automobile Club of Southern California 1998 report.)

The California Office of Traffic Safety predicts that because of an estimated 33% surge in the teen population, many more teens will be on the roads in our state this next decade. Yet, teen drivers don't have to be a menace on the road-research consistently finds that parents are extremely influential in the decisions that children and teenagers make. Your attitudes, values and behavior are critically important in the lives of your children.

Positive Influence:

Suggestions for how parents can positively influence their children:

  • Set a good example.
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol or any other drug.
  • Never drink to excess or take illegal drugs.
  • Spend quality time with your child.
  • Involve your child in family decisions.
  • Talk with your child about he negative influence of alcohol and other drugs.

If your child is a teenager:

  • Let your teenager know that he or she has your love and support.
  • Make an agreement or contract with your teenager that neither of you will drive or ride with another driver who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Make sure your children understand that the California Zero Tolerance Law does not allow any detectable levels of alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle.
  • Continue to talk with your teenager about alcohol and other drugs.
  • Set consistent and appropriate boundaries and consequences.
  • Know your teenagers friends.
  • Know how your teenager will get to and from events or parties.
  • Discuss overnight arrangements with your teen and the hosts parents.
  • Never allow alcohol or drugs at gatherings hosted by your teenager.
  • Encourage your children to volunteer with organizations such as Friday Night Live, Teenwork or Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
  • Encourage your children to be involved in the arts, sports, music or other constructive activities.
  • Be a positive example.
  • Remind your teenager that the legal drinking age is 21 in all 50 states.


Crime and Alcohol Abuse:

Nationally, alcohol abuse is a factor in 75% of domestic violence incidents involving spouses. (United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Statistics, 1998) 
Nationally, alcohol is involved in 43% of victim reported rapes. (Columbia University, 1999) 
Excessive alcohol consumption causes over 100,000 deaths every year in this country. About one-quarter of these deaths were caused by impaired drivers. (Scientific American, 1996) 

Economic Burden of Alcohol Abuse: 

In addition to traffic deaths, every year the national economic impact of problems caused by underage alcohol consumption is tremendous.

Violent crime committed by underage drinkers: $35.9 billion 
Vehicle crashes involving alcohol: $18.2 billion 
Drowning and near drowning of youths under the influence: $532 million 
Alcohol poisoning due to excessive drinking: $340 million 
Burns attributed to alcohol use by youth: $315 million 

(National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, 1999 report)


  • California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs Resource Center
    1-800-879-2772 (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.)
    1-916-445-1942 - TTY
  • Center for Substance Abuse Treatment 
    United States Department of Health and Human Services
    1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Columbia University
  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

For information about school-based prevention programs contact:

  • California Department of Education 
    Healthy Kids Program Office

For more information on underage drinking and driving write to:

  • California Attorney Generals Office
    Crime and Violence Prevention Center
    P.O. Box 944255
    Sacramento, California 94244-2550