Working together, the beverage alcohol industry, governments, individuals, and private organizations are making progress in combating underage drinking and drunk driving. The most effective means of continuing this positive trend occurs through positive parental involvement and peer guidance; an objective understanding of the facts; and by stressing education, tough laws, strict enforcement of state purchase laws, and positive peer pressure.
Underage drinking is at its lowest point since data were first collected. The distilled spirits industry, through its public education and social responsibility programs, has been a part of this progress.
According to the 2011 data from the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study, underage drinking rates for 8th, 10th, and 12th graders are at historic lows for lifetime use, annual use, 30-day use, daily use, and 5+ drinks on one or more occasions during the past two weeks.1 For example:
Alcohol use in the past 30 days among 8th, 10th and 12th graders declined by 49.4%, 36.4% and 25.9%, respectively since 1991. 2 (chart 1)
Binge drinking in the past two weeks among 8th, 10th and 12th graders declined by 41.3%, 30.0%, and 27.5%, respectively since 1991. 3 (chart 2)
Similarly, the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use & Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported the following:4
Past month alcohol use, binge drinking and heavy alcohol use among 12-17 years old decreased by 22.7%, 27.1%, and 32.0%, respectively since 2002 (chart 3,4,5).
Past month alcohol use, binge drinking and heavy alcohol use among 12-20 years old decreased by 8.7%, 11.9%, and 17.7%, respectively since 2002 (chart 6,7,8).
The most recent data from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported similar results on past month alcohol use and binge drinking among high school students: 5
The prevalence of past month alcohol use among 9th , 10th, 11th, and 12th graders decreased by 27.1%, 25.3%, 21.7%, and 19.2%, respectively since 1991 (chart 9).
The prevalence of binge drinking among 9th, 10th , 11th , and 12th graders decreased by 38.1%, 32.1%, 30.6% and 19.8%, respectively since 1991 (chart 10)
Fewer underage drivers are drinking and then getting into fatal accidents, killing either themselves or others.
In its 2001 report, "Determine Why There Are Fewer Young Alcohol-Impaired Drivers" the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration describes the progress in reducing youth drinking and driving as "spectacular".6
This "spectacular" progress is reflected in the number of 16-20 year old underage drivers involved in fatal accidents with BAC of 0.01 or greater.
The number of underage drivers drinking and driving decreased to a record low level from 4,436 in 1982 to 1,014 in 2010, representing a 77% decrease, compared to the 36 % decline in underage drivers involved in non-alcohol related driving fatalities.7 (chart 11)
Listening to Underage People
Revealing voices on underage drinking are underage people themselves. They consistently cite their parents and peers as the most influential factor in their decision to drink or not drink.
According to a 2012 GfK Roper Youth Report, 73% of adolescents aged 13-17 years reported parents as the most influential person in their decision not to drink at all or not to drink on occasion, followed by their peers (8.4%), while only 1.8% cited advertisements.8
According to the Students Against Drunk Driving-Liberty Mutual annual survey, teens in the ninth through 12th grades who reported high levels of parental attention (17%) are significantly less likely than those who report low levels of parental attention (36%) to use alcohol.9 The data also shows that parents who set expectations with clear consequences for their teens about breaking the law while driving are less likely to drive under the influence of alcohol (16% vs. 29%).10
The 2003 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse report showed that young people who enjoy school and find school work meaningful are less likely to abuse alcohol than youths who do not have positive attitudes toward school.11
A 1997 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association also underscores that influences within the home are the most powerful in combating illegal, underage drinking. This study showed that adolescents, who have strong social support systems, including parents and teachers, are less likely to consume alcohol. In addition, the study found that, among older students, lack of parental presence in the home was associated with alcohol use.12
Source of Alcohol for the Underage
According to the Federal Trade Commission, most teens who drink get alcohol from “social sources” — at parties, from older friends, from their parents’ cabinets.
A recent survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 93.4% of the adolescents ages 12-14 years who drank alcohol in the past month received it for free, and 44.8% got the alcohol for free from their family or at home.13
Focusing on Solutions That Work
Mutual cooperation between the industry, educators, government, and the public has worked in preventing and reducing alcohol abuse, including illegal, underage drinking and drunk driving. The distilled spirits industry has supported and continues to support programs combating alcohol abuse, drunk driving and illegal, underage drinking.
The distilled spirits industry’s ongoing partnership with the Federal Trade Commission’s “We Don’t Serve Teens” (www.dontserveteens.gov) campaign and other initiatives have helped to raise awareness among parents and other adults that providing alcohol to youth is unsafe, illegal and irresponsible.
The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility is a national not-for-profit organization funded by America's leading distillers. Fighting underage drinking and drunk driving have been at the centerpiece of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility's mission since its inception in 1991. The Foundation develops and implements innovative educational, public awareness and legislative programs with other national private and public organizations.
Strong parental guidance, positive peer pressure, education, stringent anti-drunk driving and legal purchase laws, and strict enforcement of these laws effectively address underage drinking and drunk driving.
1 Johnston, D., O’Malley, M., Bachman, G., Schulenberg, E. (2012). Monitoring the Future national results on adolescent drug use: Overview of key findings, 2011. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.
2Ibid, Table 7.
3 Johnston, D., O’Malley, M., Bachman, G., Schulenberg, E. (2012). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2011: volume I, secondary school students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.
4 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2011). Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. NSDUH Series H-41, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 11-4658. Rockville, MD.
5 Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2009. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 61 (4).
6 Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 61(4).
7 U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fatal Analysis Reporting System. Data obtained from NHTSA.
8 GfK Roper Youth Report. This report was developed from a Omniweb study of 1007 Americans age 13-17, conducted February 2012 for Anheuser-Busch.
9 Students Against Drunk Driving, Liberty Mutual. (2005). Press release. New study: Parental consequences significantly deter dangerous driving behaviors in teens.
10 Students Against Drunk Driving, Liberty Mutual. (2005). Press release. Teens report parental inattention to their important ‘rites of passage” has high price tag.
11 Students Against Drunk Driving, Liberty Mutual. (2006). Press release. New study: Parental consequences significantly deter dangerous driving behaviors in teens.
12 Resnick, M., Bearman, P., Blum, R., Bauman, k., Harris, K., Jones, J. et al. (1997). Protecting adolescents from harm: Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. Journal of the American Medical Association, 278(1), 823-832.
13 Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration. (2011). Young alcohol users often get alcohol from family or home. Data Spotlight.