Study Reveals More Teens Drink and Drive on NYE Than Any Other Holiday

Parents should set clear ground rules for teens heading out for New Year's Eve.

While New Year’s Eve may conjure images of a celebratory toast, according to Liberty Mutual Insurance, it’s also traditionally one of the worst days of the year for alcohol-related crashes and deaths for young drivers. New data from a 2011 teen driving study by Liberty Mutual and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) reveals an interesting yet cautionary anomaly: teens believe New Year’s Eve is the most dangerous time of year to drive, yet it also is the holiday or event when teens most frequently drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

According to the survey of nearly 2,300 eleventh and twelfth graders, when teen drivers were asked about how dangerous they feel certain events are for driving and the likelihood of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs on one of these events, New Year’s Eve topped both lists.


Percentage of teens that view event as very/extremely dangerous to drive

Percentage of teens that have driven under the influence of alcohol or drugs after one of these events

New Year’s Eve

49% 10% 4th of July 29% 8% Prom Night 20% 6% Graduation/Post Graduation 16% 4% Homecoming 11% 6%

High School Football Games

8% 6%

Other School Dances/Events

8% 5%

The silver lining?  Passengers have a powerful influence over drivers.

The large majority of teen drivers say that they would stop driving under the influence of alcohol (94%) or marijuana (90%) if asked by a passenger. Interestingly, teen passengers say they would be significantly more likely to ask a peer to stop driving after drinking than after using marijuana (87% vs. 72%), and female passengers are more likely to speak up against either driving behavior than boys (90% vs. 83% for alcohol; 78% vs. 65% for marijuana). 

“New Year’s Eve is a time to celebrate both the past year and the possibilities of the year to come, yet far too often poor decisions by teens result in tragic injuries and deaths,” said Stephen Wallace, Senior Advisor for Policy, Research, and Education at SADD. “To avoid a fatal start to the New Year, teen passengers need to use their voices if they have concerns about their friends’ behaviors.  They will be heard.” 

New Teen Driving Laws

Just in time for New Year's Eve, Pennsylvania has enacted a new law aimed at increasing safety for young drivers. The new law went in to effect Dec. 27, and increases behind-the-wheel training requirements, places a limit on the number of passengers a young driver can transport and makes not wearing a seatbelt a primary offense for young drivers.

The new law adds 15 hours of supervised, behind-the-wheel training for driver's license permit holders younger than 18, bringing the total to 65 hours. Ten of the additional hours must include driving at night and five hours must occur during poor weather conditions. Current permit-holders younger than 18 who have not yet passed the driving skills test before Dec. 27 will have to meet the requirements of the new law.

Also, as part of the law, drivers younger than 18 will not be permitted to transport more than one passenger who is under 18 and is not an immediate family member unless they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. After six months, the junior driver may transport up to three passengers younger than 18 who are not immediate family members without a parent or legal guardian present, but only if that driver has not been convicted of a driving violation or has not been partially or fully responsible for a reportable crash.

The law also requires that junior drivers and passengers under the age of 18 must wear a seat belt, and children under the age of eight must be fastened in a child restraint system. The seat belt provisions of the new law are primary offenses, meaning a driver can be stopped and cited solely for that violation.

Family Driving Rules

Parents can play an important role to ensure safety is top of mind on New Year’s Eve. The research shows that clear driving ground rules, with mutually agreed upon expectations, consequences and rewards, are effective in curbing unsafe driving behaviors by teens. The Parent/Teen Contract at LibertyMutual.com offers families a starting place to begin the safe driving conversation and set those rules. You can download the contract in our PDF section.

“Prior to New Year’s Eve, parents need to have a conversation with their teen drivers about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and fatigue as well as how to be a good driver and a good passenger,” said Dave Melton, a driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual and managing director of global safety. “Teens also need to be prepared for dangerous behaviors of other drivers who will be impaired on New Year’s Eve. Having this important conversation provides an opportunity for parents to share their concerns and determine rules and consequences that help their teen driver make healthy, safe choices for themselves and their friends, so they don’t become another headline.”

Additional helpful tools and resources about how to be a safe and responsible driver can be found at www.LibertyMutual.com/TeenDriving.  The website provides state-by-state teen driving laws, tips on driving in inclement weather, practice permit tests, and video demonstrations of safe driving techniques, including parallel parking.  Other important safety information can be found at www.sadd.org.

About the Study

Liberty Mutual and SADD commissioned ORC International, an InfoGroup Company, to conduct a qualitative and quantitative study to measure teen driving attitudes and behaviors. The study was initiated with a series of four focus groups held in Harrisburg and San Francisco, Calif., in October 2010, followed by a survey of 2,294 teens in eleventh and twelfth grades from 28 recruited high schools across the country in January 2011. Overall findings for the study can be interpreted with a 95% confidence interval with an error margin of +/- 2.02%. 


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