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Traffic Crash Victimizations of Children and Teenagers by Drinking Drivers Age 21 and Older

Mike Males

Objective: Motor-vehicle crash victimizations by age of the drinking driver and the age of the victim, particularly the toll inflicted by drinkers 21 and older on children and teenagers, have not been quantified in detail. This article presents and analyzes the available data. Method: Cases of fatal crashes involving drivers who tested positive for alcohol use were extracted from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System's online encyclopedia for 1998-2007. These data, along with data for other drivers, passengers, and vehicle nonoccupants involved in the same crashes, were arranged in cross tabulations showing relationships of ages of drinking drivers to ages, injury severity, and person type of corresponding victims. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates of alcohol-related crash involvements were used to estimate all alcohol-related traffic victimizations by driver and victim age. Results: Drinking drivers age 21 and older caused an estimated 2.7 million crashes from 1998 through 2007 that victimized persons younger than age 20, killing 3,630 children below the age of 16 and 4,290 teens ages 16-19 and injuring 470,000 children and 390,000 teens. Drinking drivers age 21 and older victimize 1.3 times more teenage drivers than vice versa and account for large majorities of passenger and nonoccupant alcohol-related crash victimizations of both children and teens. Conclusions: If tabulated as a separate mortality cause, drinking and driving among those age 21 and older would represent the sixth leading cause of death for teenagers and the ninth leading cause for children. The hazards of underage and overage drinking to young people are integrated issues requiring unified countermeasures. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 71, 351-356, 2010)