Sadly, it’s a story like so many we’ve read before. “The Albany County Sheriff’s Department says a 19-year-old Middleburgh woman was killed in an early morning crash Sunday and another 19-year-old woman was charged with driving while intoxicated. Deputies said the single car crash happened around 2:30 a.m…”
The accident above was reported just yesterday by the Times Union newspaper. When reading such stories, questions spring to mind: Did the young women’s parents talk to them about driving under the influence? Why didn’t they call a ride share service or taxi? Had they both been drinking? These thoughts aren’t accusatory. Instead, they’re an attempt to try and make sense of a tragedy and the fear that the same thing could happen to someone we love.
A recent study by Yale researcher Federico Vaca, M.D., M.P.H, The National Institutes of Health and Colorado State University concluded that at least once in the last year, a third of 19- and 20-year-olds have been in a car with a driver under the influence.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) National President Helen Witty breaks this down even further, telling Parentology, “Every 48 minutes in America, someone is killed by drunk driving, which is still the leading killer on our roads.”
Twenty three percent of the total respondents in Vaca’s study said they’d been in a vehicle with a peer under the influence of marijuana. One in five said they’d been with a driver under the influence of alcohol. The study also looked at the age difference between the driver and respondent to understand if these behaviors were affected by the driver’s age in relation to the passenger. They found that respondents were more likely to be riding with an impaired peer than an older adult.
Witty’s experienced the impact of impaired driving firsthand. Her 16-year-old daughter Helen Marie was struck and killed while rollerblading on a bike path by a drunk 17-year-old driver who’d been smoking marijuana.
With the popularity of ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft, it may seem surprising driving under the influence is still such a big issue. Yet, motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death and injury among teens and young adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This time of year, when there are so many happy occasions to celebrate, is also a time to beware of the temptations our teens face,” Witty says.
Her advice to parents, “It’s so important for parents to talk to their kids, because kids say they listen to their parents more than anyone else — they look to their parents to set the tone.”
Witty emphasizes, “It’s our job to tell them it’s not OK to drink when they’re under 21. It’s not OK to put harmful drugs in their system. And it’s never okay, at any age, to drink and drive or get into the car with someone who’s been drinking.”
Helen Witty, National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
Times Union: 19-year-old Killed, Another Changed with DWI
Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs: Emerging Adults Riding With Marijuana-, Alcohol-, or Illicit Drug–Impaired Peer and Older Drivers
Yale News: One in three young adults has ridden with an impaired driver
CDC: Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths