Association between a delay in driving licensure and driving while impaired and riding with an impaired driver among emerging adults

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2021 Apr;45(4):793-801. doi: 10.1111/acer.14585. Epub 2021 Apr 3.


Background: Teens who delay driving licensure may not be subject to graduated driver licensing restrictions that are known to reduce crash risk. We explored the association of delay in licensure with driving while impaired (DWI) and riding with an impaired driver (RWI) among emerging adults.

Methods: Data from the NEXT Generation Health Study, starting with 10th grade (2009-2010), were analyzed. The outcome variables were Wave 7 (W7) self-reported DWI and RWI as dichotomous variables. The independent variable was delay in licensure. Covariates included sex, urbanicity, race/ethnicity, family structure, parent education, family affluence, teen's highest education, minimum legal drinking age laws, and onset age of alcohol use. Descriptive analysis and logistic regressions were conducted.

Results: Of 2525 participants eligible for licensure, 887 reported a delay in licensure by 1-2 years (38.9%, weighted) and 1078 by > 2 years (30.3% weighted) across 7 waves. In W7, 23.5% (weighted and hereafter, 5.6% once, 17.8% ≥twice) of participants reported DWI and 32.42% (5.6% once, 25.4% ≥twice) reported RWI. Logistic regressions showed no overall significant association of delay in licensure with either W7 RWI or W7 DWI. However, in stratified analyses, among African American youth, delay in licensure was positively associated with DWI (OR = 2.41, p = 0.03) and RWI (OR = 2.72, p = 0.05). Among those with ≤ high school or lower education by W7, delayed licensure was positively associated with RWI (OR = 2.51, p < 0.01).

Conclusions: While in the overall sample, delayed licensure did not appear to be associated with DWI or RWI, our findings suggest that delayed licensure may be of concern to teen risk of DWI and RWI among African Americans and among those with lower educational attainment. Furthermore, as two-thirds of youth delayed licensure, more research is needed to determine whether this is more of a positive (i.e., protective) factor by reducing their exposure to crash risk or a negative (i.e., risk) factor due to their missing important driver safety stages of graduated driver licensing.

Keywords: African Americans; NEXT Generation Health Study; driving while impaired; novice drivers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Driving Under the Influence*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Licensure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Time Factors
  • Underage Drinking / statistics & numerical data*