Associations Between Driving Under the Influence or Riding with an Impaired Driver and Future Substance Use Among Adolescents

Published in: Traffic Injury Prevention (2019). doi: 10.1080/15389588.2019.1615620

by Karen Chan Osilla, Rachana Seelam, Layla Parast, Elizabeth J. D'Amico

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Risky driving behaviors among adolescents, such as riding with a drinking or impaired driver (RWID) or driving while under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs, are significant public health concerns. Few studies have examined associations of RWID and DUI with future substance use and problems after controlling for baseline substance use. Given that the DUI/RWDD event may be a teachable moment to prevent future consequences (e.g., when injured or arrested), it is important to understand how this risk behavior relates to subsequent use and problems. This study therefore examined characteristics of adolescents who reported DUI and RWID and assessed their risk of future alcohol and marijuana use and consequences 6 months later.


Participants were 668 adolescents aged 12 to 18 (inclusive) recruited at 1 of 4 primary care clinics in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles as part of a larger randomized controlled trial. They completed surveys about their health behaviors at baseline and 6 months after baseline. We examined baseline characteristics of adolescents who reported DUI and RWID and then assessed whether past-year DUI and RWID at baseline were associated with alcohol and marijuana use and consequences 6 months after baseline.


Fifty-eight percent of participants were female, 56% were Hispanic, 23% were Black, 14% were White, 7% were multiethnic or other, and the average age was 16 years (SD=1.9). At baseline, participants who reported RWID or DUI were more likely to be older, report past-year use of alcohol and marijuana, and more likely to have an alcohol use disorder or cannabis use disorder versus those who did not report RWID or DUI, respectively. At 6-month follow-up and after controlling for baseline demographics and baseline alcohol use, RWID was associated with more frequent drinking episodes in the past 3 months and greater number of drinks in the past month when they drank heavily. DUI at baseline was associated with more frequent heavy drinking episodes and alcohol and marijuana consequences 6 months later.


RWID and DUI are significantly associated with greater alcohol and marijuana use over time. This study highlights that teens may be at higher risk for problem substance use in the future even if they ride with someone who is impaired. Prevention and intervention efforts for adolescents need to address both driving under the influence and riding with an impaired driver to prevent downstream consequences.

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