According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teens are three times more likely to be involved in a car accident than older adults. Sadly, this statistic may explain the results of a recent survey on teens and their opinions about drinking and driving.

The survey

Together with Students Against Destructive Decisions, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company surveyed various teen drivers about alcohol consumption and driving. Astonishingly, many teens admitted to getting behind the wheel of a car, or allowing others to do so, more than one would originally predict.

About one in 10 teenagers who participated in the survey admitted to occasionally driving after having an alcoholic drink. But the most striking revelation was how many teens actually drive after having more than one alcoholic drink.

About 68 percent of teenagers admitted to “rarely” getting behind the wheel after having more than three drinks with alcohol. However, this leaves 32 percent of participants who do so or would do so after having three or more drinks-a number likely to leave any individual too impaired to drive.

Reason behind the teen survey

According to Dave Melton, managing director of global safety for Liberty Mutual in Boston, there may be a reason why teens drink and drive despite knowing the dangers.

“There’s a tremendous misunderstanding what it means to be under the influence. This definition of ‘under the influence’ is probably the biggest disconnect between teenagers vs. people my age or your age.” he stated.

For teens, “As long as they are able to walk to the car without falling down, they feel like they are not impaired,” he said. For many adults, this is not the test used to determine impairment.

Further, teens seem to determine the designated driver as the one out of the group who is “the most sober.” Alternately, most adults would view a designated driver as one who refrains from drinking at all during an outing involving alcohol.

Lack of deterrence

Graduated Drivers Licensing Laws, other zero tolerance regulations, and even nationwide campaigns have been launched to deter teens from engaging in risky driving behavior, but the survey suggests that these measures may not be enough.

Melton indicates that the deterrence should really start at home. He recommends parents of teens consider entering into a parent-teen contract with their kids that outlines the exact repercussions if their teens are caught drinking and driving or participating in specific behaviors that increase the risk of an auto accident.

Teens who know exactly what penalties they face, like an automatic loss of the driver’s license for a certain period of time, may force them to think twice the next time alcohol and driving are involved.

Given the upcoming prom season, it’s essential parents discuss this and other potential ideas with their teens.