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Risks of Drinking and Driving Higher During Holidays

December 19, 2002 (Release 02-157)


For more information, contact:
Rosalie Thornburgh or Pati Pomeroy
KDOT Bureau of Traffic Safety: (785) 296-3756

Risks of Drinking and Driving Higher During Holidays

‘Tis the season to be careful. That’s especially the case when considering the added risks when getting behind the wheel of a car:
  • Distracted shoppers rush from store to store to finish last-minute shopping.
  • Highways are more crowded as people travel to visit family and friends.
  • High schools and colleges are on winter breaks, thereby putting more young drivers on the road.
  • Winter weather – and therefore roadways – can turn ugly at any time.

And then there’s the drinking thing, often in the form of holiday parties, where family and friends get together to celebrate the season, often over adult beverages. As part of its Care/Call Campaign (Care About Underage Drinking; Make the Right Call), the Kansas Department of Transportation is reminding drivers of all ages of the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving.

“When you throw alcohol into a mix that includes heavy traffic and inexperienced drivers and bad weather, you really create a recipe for potential tragedy,” said Rosalie Thornburgh, chief of KDOT’s Bureau of Traffic Safety.

Unfortunately, the availability of alcoholic beverages at private get-togethers during the holiday season can be an opportunity for curious teenagers looking to kick up their heels during their school breaks.

“Car crashes are the leading cause of death for people between 16 and 24 years old,” Thornburgh said. “Many of those crashes involve alcohol.”

U.S. statistics show that for every 100,000 licensed drivers, young drinking drivers are involved in fatal crashes at approximately twice the rate of drivers age 21 and older.

Adults who furnish alcohol to minors, or who allow teenagers to drink in their homes – even if they don’t know the drinking is occurring – can incur criminal and civil liability. Underage possession or use of alcoholic beverages also is illegal, Thornburgh said.

“Under Kansas’ Zero Tolerance policy, it’s illegal in Kansas for anyone under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle when they have a blood alcohol content of .02 or above. The legal limit is .08 for adults.

“The reason the threshold is so low is that even small amounts of alcohol are dangerous, especially for young, inexperienced drivers,” Thornburgh said. “According to national statistics, more 18-year-olds die in low blood alcohol concentration alcohol related crashes than individuals of any other age.”

First-time offenders face a 30-day drivers suspension and a 330-day license restriction. Second offenders lose their licenses for a year. Simply possessing alcoholic beverages can mean a 30-day drivers license suspension.


KDOT is a member of the Governor’s Substance Abuse Prevention Council united in the vision that Kansas communities become places where all children are safe, protected, nurtured, and supported in reaching their fullest potential.

*Color copies of the attached charts are available at: