For young people, graduating from high school and leaving home for the four-year (or longer) adventure that is their college education is a rite of passage. Whether moving into a college dorm, getting their first part-time job, or finally being “out on their own,” the college experience is a journey from adolescence into adulthood.
Unfortunately, thousands of college students every year die before completing that journey. Research shows over 1,800 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related injuries annually (including drunk driving incidents).
To understand this tragedy and the college campuses around America where these accidents are the most prevalent, we analyzed FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System) data of fatal car accidents in and around college campuses. Read on as we explore just how serious – and deadly – college drinking and driving is today.
More than making it to class on time or getting good grades, drinking has become a ritual for many college students across the U.S. Experts suggest many young people acquire habits around drinking alcohol that stay with them years after the college experience has ended. Studies show roughly 60 percent of college students between the ages of 18 and 22 drink alcohol, even though many are not of legal age.
Beyond the negative effects that drinking can have on their academic careers, the consequences of drinking for college students can be deadly.
Between 2012 and 2016, 4.3 percent of all crash fatalities occurred within a three-mile radius of a non-city college or university. City colleges and universities were only slightly safer. During the same period, 3.5 percent of crash fatalities occurred within a 1.5-mile radius of city colleges and universities.
Fatal Accidents in Your Area
Every day, close to 29 people lose their lives as a result of alcohol-impaired car accidents. This equating to more than one person every hour, the total number of DUI fatalities in 2016 increased to over 10,000.
Using our interactive tool, you can see just how many of those crashes occurred at or near a college or university in your area. Sort by the type of school with the biggest student populations.
Over the Alcohol Limit
Across the U.S., the legal drinking limit is a blood-alcohol content of .08. Years of research have shown the effects of alcohol on a person’s ability to drive safely. When a national BAC limit was first introduced in 1938, the limit was just .15. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost all drivers become impaired drivers once their BAC reaches .08.
So how many drinks is too many? That depends. For the average 25-year-old man, between four and five standard mixed beverages with .60 ounces of alcohol can push his BAC over .08. For women, the number of drinks that could lead to dangerous (or even deadly) driving is even fewer. Just three standard mixed drinks would push the average 25-year-old woman over the .08 BAC limit.
Between 2012 and 2016, more than 1 in 4 crash fatalities at non-city colleges and universities involved a driver with a BAC level over the legal limit. These deadly alcohol-related accidents were even more common at city colleges. Over the same four-year time span, more than 28 percent of crash fatalities involved a driver with a BAC over the legal limit of .08.
For fatalities that happen on or near college campuses, the most common days of the week are the same as virtually anywhere else in the country: Saturdays and Sundays. In 2016, twice as many alcohol-related traffic fatalities occurred on the weekends compared to weekdays.
Without the obligation of early morning classes or the looming responsibility of studying and homework, the weekends represent a prime opportunity for students to let loose and enjoy themselves. In some cases, that can mean turning to alcohol and potentially dangerous driving conditions. Even limiting binge drinking behavior to the weekends can be dangerous for young adults, as research shows alcohol can cause long-term brain development and mid-stage liver damage as early as 20 years old.
While fatal accidents involving impaired drivers were as likely to happen on the weekends near college campuses as anywhere else, college students may be staying up later before getting behind the wheel. Fatal alcohol-related crashes are 17 percent more likely to occur between midnight and 2 a.m. around college campuses than anywhere else in the country.
Safety at School
For the millions of young Americans who leave home to start the next chapters of their adult life, college is meant to be an exciting time. With new levels of freedom to explore and experiment with, there can be more to picking the perfect university or school than what you want to study or the profession you want to take on. Still, that newfound freedom can lead some students to experiment with drugs and alcohol for the first time, occasionally leading to deadly outcomes.
Before you pack up your books for the first day of class, make sure you have the coverage you need in case an accident should occur. Quality car insurance may seem expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. At CheapCarInsurance.net, our mission is to help you find the coverage you need at an affordable price. Our free rate comparison tool lets you explore the multitude of options in your area, break down their policies, and pick the plan that works for you. Don’t leave home without an insurance plan to keep you covered no matter what college life brings you. Visit us at CheapCarInsurance.net to learn more.
All institution data were collected for this study using the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). We included all public and private nonprofit schools with 5,000 or more students enrolled. All crash data were collected using the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). To determine what constituted a campus fatality, we used a 3-mile radius for rural, suburban, and town colleges, and a 1.5-mile radius for city colleges.
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