Driving While Intoxicated A Problem For Nevada's Young

The Reno-Gazette Journal reports that while the rate at which driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs jumped 43 percent for 17-year-olds from 2000 to 2001, the rate declined in 2002, a trend that held true for all other teenage groups.

The Gazette-Journal's study found that the trend reverses itself as soon as drivers turn 20: The rate at which DUI contributes to accidents leaped 34 percent among 20-year-old drivers from 2001 to 2002 and 27 percent among 21-year-olds. These increases come after years of decline or only small increases.

The number of DUI-related accidents involving 20-year-olds also is climbing in Washoe County. The severity of those accidents also is climbing; the percentage of DUI-related mishaps that result in injuries jumped from 33 percent in 2001 to 52 percent the following year.

The newspaper's analysis also illustrates why insurance companies charge teen drivers more: Teen drivers are much more likely to have an accident than drivers in their 20s. Although the accident rate for 20-24 year-old drivers has remained steady at about 10 percent annually, the accident rate for teen drivers has climbed to almost twice that rate -- 18 percent in 2002.

Teen drivers are more likely to have passengers aboard when they have a fatal accident than older drivers, the newspaper analysis found.

The percentage of injury accidents when a teen driver has teen passengers is much higher in Washoe County than it is for the state as a whole. And the disparity is getting worse: Washoe's rate of 35 percent in 2002 was nearly twice the statewide rate of 18 percent.

Increasingly it is the passenger who is getting injured. Both the total number of injured passengers and the per-capita rate are climbing. The injury rate when the injured passenger is a teen jumped 20 percent from 2000 to 2002 and the injury rate when the passenger is either an adult or a child has doubled between 1999 and 2002.