Which age group has the highest rate of drunk driving?

You may have a certain picture in mind of a typical drunk driver. Perhaps it is an alcoholic repeat offender or a cold-hearted criminal who does not care about others. While these personas definitely exist, they do not capture the most important thing to remember about intoxicated driving: It can happen to anyone.

Even so, some people are more at risk than others. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes there are four times as many men who drive under the influence of alcohol than women. But gender is not the only significant factor; age is, too.

Drunk driving by age range

The highest rate of drunk driving is actually among young adults at and above the legal drinking age. Those who are 21 to 24 years old had a 27% rate in 2017. When the NHTSA expanded the range to include underage drinkers at least 16 years old, the rate jumped to 42%. Underage drinkers alone had a rate of about 25%. Those 26 to 34 years old ranked in between the two groups at 26%.

What this means for parents

With most people in the 16 to 24 age range being in school or still living at home, it is important for parents to talk to their teens and adult children about the consequences of drunk driving. They may not understand the short- and long-term consequences of a DUI conviction, such as the following:

  • Higher insurance rates
  • Suspension or expulsion from school and/or extracurricular activities
  • Loss of scholarships
  • Termination of employment or difficulty obtaining work
  • Loss of driving privileges
  • Fines and court fees
  • Criminal record

Underage drivers especially need to understand that any amount of alcohol in their blood is illegal and qualifies them for legal discipline. It is also important for older drivers to know that even if their BAC is below the 0.08% limit, they can still face DUI charges if they drive clearly impaired.

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