High-Risk Driving Behaviors among Adolescent Binge Drinkers
AbstractBackground: Binge drinking is common among adolescents. Alcohol use, particularly binge drinking, has been associated with neurocognitive deficits and increased risk-taking behaviors, which may contribute to negative driving outcomes among adolescents even while sober. Objectives: To examine potential differences in self-reported risky driving behaviors between adolescent binge drinkers and a matched sample of controls on measures of (1) compliance with graduated licensing laws, (2) high-risk driving behaviors, and (3) driving outcomes (i.e., crashes, traffic tickets). Methods: This study examined driving behaviors and outcomes in adolescent recent binge drinkers ( n = 21) and demographically and driving history matched controls ( n = 17) between the ages of 16–18 years. Results: Binge drinkers more frequently violated graduated licensing laws (e.g., driving late at night) and engaged in more “high-risk” driving behaviors, such as speeding and using a cell phone while driving. Binge drinkers had more traffic tickets, crashes, and “near crashes” than the control group. Speeding was the behavior most associated with crashes within the binge drinkers. Conclusion: In this study, binge-drinking teens consistently engage in more dangerous driving behaviors and experience more frequent crashes and traffic tickets. They are also less compliant with preventative restrictions placed on youth while they are learning critical safe driving skills. Scientific Significance: These findings highlight a need to examine the contribution of underlying traits (such as sensation seeking) and binge-related cognitive changes to these high-risk driving behaviors, which may assist researchers in establishing alternative prevention and policy efforts targeting this population.