Putting Adolescents at Risk: Riding With Drinking Drivers Who Are Adults in the Home

J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2017 Jan;78(1):146-151. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2017.78.146.


Objective: Alcohol-related car crashes are a leading cause of adolescent death, and one in five U.S. adolescents reports recent riding in a car with a drinking driver. How often the driver is an adult in the home (e.g., parent) is unknown. Pediatric visits offer an opportunity to counsel families to reduce this risk. Our study aim was to determine the prevalence of recent riding with a drinking driver (RWDD) who was an adult in the home among adolescent primary care patients and to identify the demographic and environmental (substance use among family members) profiles of those at increased risk.

Method: We recruited 12- to 18-year-olds arriving for routine medical care between 11/2005 and 10/2008 from nine practices in New England. Computer self-administered questionnaires assessed demographics, past-3-month RWDD, driver characteristics, and parent/sibling substance use. We computed adjusted relative risk ratios using multiple logistic regression modeling.

Results: Among 2,096 adolescents (86% participation rate; mean age = 15.8 years, SD = 2.0; 58% girls; 65% White non-Hispanic), 8.2% reported past-3-month RWDD who was an adult in the home (36.6% of those reporting any past-3-month RWDD). Risk was higher for girls, younger adolescents (<17 year olds), White non-Hispanic and Hispanic versus Black youth, those with non-college-graduate parents, and those with substance-involved parents.

Conclusions: For a substantial proportion of adolescent primary care patients RWDD, the driver is a parent or other household adult, suggesting an important target for screening and counseling.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Automobile Driving / psychology*
  • Driving Under the Influence / psychology*
  • Family Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New England / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Surveys and Questionnaires