Young Drivers

Chair: Andrew Murie,
Contact the Young Drivers Working Group




Chair: Andrew Murie, MADD Canada



To document the major causes of impairment-related youth (14 – 24 year old) crash deaths and injuries, identify effective countermeasures, and develop strategies to ensure that these countermeasures are adopted and implemented.  



Membership will include individuals from the international community.


The Nature of the Problem:

Although the following information is drawn from Canada, the problem of impairment-related youth crash deaths appears to be similar in the United States, Australia, Western Europe, the United Kingdom, and other developed countries.   


Despite the progress made since the early 1908s, traffic crashes remain the leading cause of injury death among Canadians under the age of 25 and the leading cause of death overall for 15 to 24-year olds.  Impaired driving, a leading criminal cause of death in Canada, claims almost twice as many lives per year as all categories of homicide combined.  While those between the ages of 16 and 25 constituted approximately 13% of the population in 2013, they accounted for 31% of the alcohol-related crash deaths.  These deaths represent a major cause of preventable years of life lost, because these young people are dying 50 to 60 years prematurely.  Notwithstanding all of the public education and awareness efforts, slightly more than 40% of young fatally injured drivers and pedestrians in 2013 were positive for alcohol, and a great majority were impaired or very impaired. 

Until 2010, young Canadians had by far the highest reported rates of weekly, monthly and total binge drinking, as defined by consuming five or more standard drinks on a single occasion. (A Canadian standard drink contains 13.46 grams of alcohol.)  Although the most recent data is framed in slightly different terms, 16 to 25-year old Canadians still have the highest or among the highest rates of “at-risk drinking”.  Young drivers also tend to be risk takers in comparison to older drivers, and have the highest rates of speeding, the lowest rates of seatbelt use and among the highest arrest rates for impaired driving.


Canadian survey, roadside screening and post-mortem data indicate that driving after drug use is now considerably more common than driving after alcohol use, particularly among young drivers.  For example, while the percentage of alcohol-positive, fatally injured drivers fell from 35% to 32% between 2000 and 2013, the comparable percentage of drug-positive fatalities rose from 34% to 45%.  As of 2013, about 50% of these drug-positive deaths involved cannabis.


In a national survey, 38.9% of 15 to 24-year old drivers who were past-year cannabis users reported driving under the influence of the drug during this period and reported doing so an average of 10 times.  The comparable figure for young drivers who were past-year drinkers was 20.9%, and they reported making an average of 1.6 trips.  Young Canadians also have the highest charge rates for the federal drug offences (about 75% of which involve cannabis) and for the federal drug-impaired driving offences.


Based on 2012 survey data, it was estimated that almost 3.5 million Canadians, 15 years of age or older, had used cannabis at least once in the past year.  The past-year use rates among 15 to 24-year olds were three times that of older Canadians.  Moreover, approximately 36% of these 15 to 24-year olds were weekly or daily cannabis users.  The rates of cannabis use and cannabis-impaired driving have likely increased in Canada with the recent proliferation of illegal “medical marijuana” shops and the sharp rise in the number of authorized medical marijuana users.  Additional increases in cannabis use and cannabis-impaired driving are likely, given Canada’s impending legalization of recreational cannabis use on July 1, 2018.



The scope of the potential projects should be broadly defined. The project should include both beginning drivers (14 – 19 year olds) and young adult drivers (20 – 25 year olds). The youth crash problem should be defined to encompass pedestrians, cyclists, and operators of snowmobiles, and ATVs, as well as drivers and passengers. While the focus should be on alcohol-related crashes, the increasing rate of drug-impaired driving should be addressed. In addition to recommendations relating directly to driving, measures should be proposed to reduce the hazardous patterns of alcohol and drug consumption that generate the impairment-related crash deaths. Finally, there is already considerable research on effective countermeasures and more attention should be focused on strategies to ensure that these countermeasures are adopted and implemented.


Incidence of Alcohol & Drug-Related Youth Crash Deaths:
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Drug use
  • Youth and driving
  • Characteristics of youth crashes:
    1. When crashes occur;
    2. Types of vehicles and crashes; and
    3. Demographic characteristics of crashes.
  • Alcohol & drug use in youth traffic crashes
  • Alcohol & drug use in youth passenger deaths
  • Impairment in other youth crash deaths (motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, bicycles, and pedestrians)


Regulation of Alcohol and Cannabis:
  • Minimum drinking age
  • Cannabis and alcohol availability, taxes & prices
  • Regulatory measures geared to youth
  • Enforcement of liquor licence legislation:
    1. Underage drinking; and
    2. Binge drinking.
  • Cannabis and alcohol-related civil liability
  • Server & manager training
  • Cannabis and alcohol advertisement and marketing
Regulation of Drivers Licences:
  • Minimum driving age
  • Graduated licensing programs
  • 0% BAC limits, and zero tolerance for drugs for all drivers under 21 or for the first 5 years of driving
  • Driver education programs
  • Limits on cell phone use
Law Enforcement Approaches:
  • Enforcement of graduated licensing and 0% BAC restrictions, and zero tolerance for drugs
  • Systematic and targeted sobriety check points
  • Enforcement of drug-related driving prohibitions