Millennials Are Annoying but Drunk Driving Less

Millennials Are Annoying but Drunk Driving Less

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This post was originally published on January 25, 2016.

There’s no arguing with the fact that drunk driving is a problem and it’s especially rampant here in Los Angeles where there’s zero walking culture and really shitty public transportation. I’d say half of my sober friends found themselves in the back of a cop car back in the day after being arrested for driving while intoxicated. But apparently, the trend is changing for youngsters in America, no matter where they live.

The Young Americans are Smartening Up

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s December 2015 survey Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, there were 38 percent fewer young adults—ages 18 to 25—driving while boozed up as compared with 2002.  (I lament that in 2002 I was one of such young adult. At 23, I got in the car drunk weekly. Thankfully, I never hit anyone, and I didn’t even get pulled over.)

The number dropped even lower for teens. In 2002, 16.2 percent of people between the ages of 16 and 30 admitted to drinking and driving, but in 2014 that number was just 6.6 percent. This is no small drop. Over 50 percent of these Gen Y—or maybe even Gen Z—kids have wised up.

For some reason, the survey didn’t account for degrees of drunkenness, which might actually matter. Instead of specifying whether they were slightly buzzed, buzzed, tipsy, happy, drunk, extra drunk, wasted, shit-faced or in a black out, the survey simply asked them to admit if they’d ever driven after drinking. It’s possible to drive after having one glass of booze without going over the legal limit, but this typically only happens if you drink on a stomach filled with something like half a pizza at a rate of three sips per 20 minutes.

How Did It Happen?

According to Alejandro Azofeifa, an epidemiologist at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the lead author on the report, the drop in young adults drinking and driving is due to many different factors, such as sobriety checkpoints and educational campaigns.

Its true that kids have been forced to watch documentaries and public service announcements, and don’t underestimate MADD—Mothers Against Drunk Driving—and the impact it has in public schools to spread awareness.

It’s also possible that pot has replaced alcohol as the go-to party companion for youngsters; the survey did not ask about marijuana use. When pot was accounted for driving under the influence, it was simply lumped in with the number of young adults driving while drunk.

Good Job, Uber

You can also credit Uber with helping cut down on drunk driving. These services are wildly popular among millennials who are hooked up to their smartphones 24/7. In January of 2015, Uber teamed up with MADD to release data that suggest Uber has helped slashed drunk driving accidents in its home state of California. Specifically, drunk driving crashes plummeted 60 percent for those under 30 where Uber was available.

That’s no small number.

Whatever is going on, be it young adults wising up or taking an Uber, this is positive news and certainly makes me think more highly of those millennial whipper-snappers, even though I’ve heard plenty of my Gen X bosses badmouthing them, calling them lazy and entitled. Perhaps their self-importance has fueled a certain self-prevention mechanism that contributes to them wanting to not drive drunk?

Photo courtesy of Smallman12q [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Master's in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.