Survey shows teens who drive drunk often know the risks

In Tennessee and throughout the nation, a great deal of effort is being made to educate young drivers about risky behaviors such as drunk and distracted driving - and yet these problems continue. The problem, as it turns out, is not necessarily that teenage drivers are not getting the message, but rather that they often fail to heed it.

A survey released recently by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Liberty Mutual Insurance suggests that most teenagers today are well informed of the dangers of distracted or drunk driving and realize on an intellectual level that those behaviors should be avoided. Unfortunately, however, many teen drivers fall short of putting those principles into action.

Teens often define sobriety in relative terms

Part of the problem lies in an apparent disconnect between generations with regard to the definitions of terms like "sober" and "under the influence." According to the survey, about one in 10 teens who said they "never" drink and drive also admitted to occasionally driving after consuming alcohol.

In a Forbes report on the study, Liberty Mutual managing director of global safety Dave Melton explained that teens who participated in the survey described a designated driver as someone who is "basically" sober, or less drunk than anyone else in the group. Adults, on the other hand, tend to think of a designated driver as someone who agrees to remain completely sober, Melton said.

Tennessee crash statistics: drunk and distracted drivers

In 2012, there were 295 drunk driving fatalities involving drivers with blood alcohol content (BAC) levels of 0.08 or higher in Tennessee. Those deaths accounted for 29 percent of the state's traffic fatalities that year - and a 14 percent increase from the year before.

There were an additional 7,238 alcohol-related traffic accidents on Tennessee roads in 2012, according to statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which defines an alcohol-related crash as one in which at least one driver has a BAC of 0.01 or higher. Those accidents resulted in another 7,328 injuries.

Numerous studies have shown that important driving skills can be significantly impaired at BAC levels well below the 0.08 threshold, and recent research from the University of California at San Diego shows that drivers with a BAC of just 0.01 are nearly 50 percent more likely than completely sober drivers to cause fatal accidents. As BAC levels increase, so does the risk of causing a serious crash.

Holding Tennessee drunk drivers accountable

When people drink and drive in Tennessee, they can be held financially responsible to those they harm regardless of any criminal consequences they may or may not be facing. To learn more about how you may be able to obtain compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and other damages if you or a loved one has been hurt in a crash with an impaired driver in Tennessee, talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer.