Results for Kids - Youth Involved in Alcohol- and Drug related Motor Vehicle Crashes

The San Diego County Report Card on Child and Family Wellbeing has examined the indicator Motor Vehicle Injury and Death Due to Alcohol/Drug Use for ages 16-20 from 2000-2005. San Diego currently ranks fourth in the state for the number of young fatalities (NHTSA, Report on Alcohol-Related Fatalities in 2004) and both the number and rate of injuries and fatalities for youth in DUI-related crashes have not significantly changed from 1996-2005.

The Motor Vehicle Workgroup was convened by the San Diego Children's Initiative as the third and final topic studied in the RESULTS for Kids Project. This workgroup met over several months to discuss trends in youth involvement in crashes, to identify gaps in available data, to see what factors surrounding this issue were as yet unexamined, and to reach consensus about how San Diego County could better focus intervention for youth. The process was guided by expert opinion, academic research, community practice, and citizen opinion.

Why monitor these crashes?   The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides statistics that point to the severity and the economic costs of these collisions.

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for 36% of all deaths in this age group (CDC 2006).
  • At all levels of blood alcohol concentration, the risk of being involved in a crash is greater for young people than for older people (Zador et al. 2000). In 2005, 16% of drivers ages 16 to 20 who died in motor vehicle crashes had been drinking alcohol (NHTSA 2006).
  • The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash (IIHS 2006).
  • Young men ages 18 to 20 (under the legal drinking age) reported driving while impaired more frequently than any other age group (Shults et al. 2002, Quinlan et al. 2005).
  • Persons aged 15 to 24, who represent only 14% of the U.S. population, account for 30% ($19 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28% ($7 billion) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among females (Finkelstein et al. 2006).

What do we know about youth driving and crashing under the influence in San Diego ?  

We undertook an extensive process of securing existing data for San Diego County. Many state-level data elements are not routinely produced for county-level use, and many county-specific data had not been made public. Through communication, collaboration, and partnering with HHSA Emergency Medical Services, the CHP Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, and California Department of Motor Vehicles, a compendium of data was assembled for the workgroup to examine and analyze.

The following local facts and trends were identified:

  • Young males in San Diego County , as in the rest of the nation, have about twice as many DUI-related crashes as females.
  • Whites have the highest rate of crashes, followed by Hispanic youth.
  • Most youth crashes occur between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.
  • Crashes are more likely to occur from Saturday night to Sunday morning.
  • The number of drug-only involved crashes has increased by approximately 50% over the last ten years.
  • Several areas of the County with a high density of these crashes occurring were identified. The top five crash locations over 1995-2003 are: Escondido , Kearny Mesa, Mid-City, San Dieguito/coastal area, and Oceanside .
  • Zip code of residence data was generated and used to identify which residential areas have higher numbers of their youth being involved in these crashes. The top five residential areas are: Escondido, Oceanside, Chula Vista, Mid-City, and Del Mar/Mira Mesa.

Data into Action

  Based on their expertise in working with this population, the workgroup recommended that the community work to increase local enforcement of ordinances that are already in place to curtail youth from drinking and driving. Youth still report that gaining access to alcohol is not a problem. Based on this population's cognitive maturity level, attraction to risk-taking behaviors, and both perception and experience of the lack of legal consequences for this behavior, current legal interventions are not as effective as they should be.