College Drunk Driving Deaths Vastly Exaggerated, Study FInds


Good clean college fun

As the old saying goes: There is a time and a place for everything, and that time and place is college. Besides learning philosophy and biology, many college students also learn their preferences in alcoholic beverages (one hopes they choose single malt scotch). Certain alarmists (you know who you are MADD) have claimed that toll that drinking in college includes as many 1,700 students killed annually in drunk driving accidents. The main study from which this figure is derived is a near perfect example of how to conjure any conclusion one wants from the thinnest of data. In this case, the study found alcohol-related traffic deaths was 15.2 per 100,000 college students.

The Daily Progress, the local paper in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I spend most of my time, reports that a new study by James Turner at the University of Virginia finds that the earlier estimate is about ten times too high. From The Daily Progress:

Researchers at the University of Virginia say the reported death rate of college students due to drunken driving is grossly overrated, according to a study released Tuesday.

Dr. James C. Turner, executive director of UVa Student Health, and a team of researchers have spent more than three years studying data from colleges across the state.

Their work suggests drunken driving caused only a fraction of the deaths of college students in 2007, the year they studied. Turner's findings, which appeared in a recent Journal of American College Health (JACH), show that DUI-related death rates among college students in Virginia were between 1.7 and 4.3 per 100,000 students.

Previous studies have had estimates as high as 14.1 to 15.2 deaths per 100,000 college students, Turner said.

"Until now, all leading estimates were based not on actual measures of college student data but rather on the assumption that college student drinking and driving fatality rates were the same as the general population," Turner said.

Turner said preliminary research into data on a national level is comparable to his research in Virginia. Those findings are expected to be released within the next year.

We must always protect the kids, even if researchers have to make up data to justify pointless prohibition.

NEXT: Paying for Bad Cops

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Just based on my own experience, I bet those kids are killing MORE people than we think.

    Of course, young drivers are usually pretty shitty even without chemical assistance.

  2. PL: Perhaps so, but the actual data doesn’t find that alcohol is especially involved.

    1. They’re inherently dangerous, chemicals or no. I say raise the driving age to 30.

      1. I think surviving their stupidity turns them into better drivers, not learning later in life how to drive.

        1. That’s why we have virtual reality. Rather than letting them live in the real world, we should send them off to a virtual community for ten years to make them safe and self-sufficient.

          1. 10 years in Second Life would make them self-sufficient in group sex involving impossibly-endowed, anatomically-correct anthropomorphic canines. Not sure about the safety thing, but I guess they won’t be going outside anytime soon.

            1. O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world!

            2. How can something be both anatomically correct, and impossibly endowed?

      2. Even raising it to 18 would probably help. I didn’t get a license until after high school and I didn’t do all of the dumb stuff that the rest of my friends did driving. But I may not be a typical example.

      3. You’re so fucking old. I was a better driver at 16 than you are now.

        1. Yes, of course you were. Teenagers never have overinflated views of their skills.

          1. And old farts never forget what it was like to be young.

            I should get off your lawn now, right?

            1. Actually, they don’t. I remember it all too well. My wife and I regularly discuss why our 18-year old must be caged like a dog.

  3. This doesn’t surprise me. Most college kids aren’t driving cars to parties in the first place. It’s a lot easier to get blitzed and walk the few blocks to your dorm room or crash at your friend’s place or just continue drinking until you end up blacking out and having a regrettable sexual liaison with that one chick that looks like a linebacker from your sociology class.

    1. There’s some truth to this. My senior year, we used to just have huge parties and pass out at home. Also, our regular bars (or frat houses) were in walking distance.

    2. Speaking from experience, eh?

      1. At least it required me to get black out drunk first, which is more than I can say for some of the chubby chasers around here.

        1. I won’t argue with you there. There is a decided lack of taste here, though the universal hatred of rectal shows that there is at least some.

    3. But…but….the chick who looks like a linebacker is the only girl who will have sex with me!!! T_T

  4. How many college kids actually drive?


    Most party school campuses have a bar scene within walking distance of the dorms.

    Daytime it’s easier to get around on a bicycle and avoid traffic.
    Cars are rarely used except to leave town or in really bad weather.

    It’s working adults who live a distance from their watering hole who do the majority of drunk driving.

    1. Hell, I still try to live within walking or biking distance of work and night-life. Considering how zealous the cops are these days you suburbanites are crazy to be tempting fate even having just one drink and hitting the road.

      1. Be careful not to get hit by a car running a red light while you’re in the crosswalk on your bicycle after a couple beers.

        Last time I did that I was charged with OUI, found guilty by reason of not being able to afford an attorney, and had to fix the car that hit me.

        1. Yeah I’ve ran into a few people that don’t think you can get a DWI while riding the bike. You still can, it’s just you’re not a priority to the police.

          And people can’t drive worth a damn. Blowing red lights is the least of it, I can’t count the number of times some moron with no situational awareness has almost hit me. It’s bad enough in a car, it’s much scarier when you’re on a bike. Gotta admit though, it’s a hell of a lot more fun to flip the bird and yell obscenities at crappy drivers when you’re not stuck in a vehicle.

      2. Well, it’s business drunk, it’s like rich drunk. Either way, it’s legal to drive.

  5. this repeated emphasis on the drinking age is ridiculous & is another REASON libertarians have a difficult time gaining traction. ur quibbling about a line-in-the-sand (here, no here!) or does REASON propose completely eliminating drinking ages?



      1. I vote for “STFU” instead

      2. If by “drink” you mean “Hello, shit facktory!”

    2. Always with the line-in-the-sand!

    3. How about, if you’re old enough to die for your country on the field of battle, you’re old enough to get a beer at the local VFW?

      1. “the other kevin” speaks for REASON since no coherent alternative is ever proposed other than railing about the drinking age.

        1. How about…shouldn’t be up to those like you, who support imposing upon adults (which 18-20 year olds are) a special legal restriction not applicable to other adults, to prove that such a restriction is necessary?

          If not, what is to prevent the State from raising the drinking age to 40? Or imposing a drinking age ceiling?

    4. Then don’t fucking read this website if you don’t like it! What is your problem?

        1. dumbass. Return to Middle School immediately.

        2. you

          Another problem that can easily be solved by your not reading this site.

    5. You believe in legalized discrimination against full (ie, non-minor) citizens based on demographic factors beyond their control? Are you a racist too?


    1. I would like to subscribe to your news letter.

      1. don’t subscribe-never mind your brain, the Urkobold website fucks-up your computer

        1. All that black makes your box want to kill itself.

          1. That’s a fair cop.

    2. I would like to make you dean of my Alma Mater and return to school for “continuing education”.

    3. Is Urkobold? really trademarked? Why?

      1. You seem quite humor-impaired. You should work on this.

        1. Are you his mommy?

          1. Needs more work. A lot more.

            1. The more subtle question would’ve been why doesn’t the Urkobold use the ? mark?

      2. For tax reasons.

        1. I am using that. Thanks.

        2. You seem likely to know this, being of the lawyerly persuasion. Is there any common law trademark protection similar to common law copyright? In other words, does simply putting the “TM” superscript thing by “Urkobold” have any actual legal weight.

          1. Actually, there is no common law copyright in the U.S. All copyright protection here comes from federal statute.

            There is such a thing as common law trademark. It’s been a while since I’ve dealt with it, but I believe that you can get it by using a mark in commerce. The key difference between a common law mark and a registered federal mark is the geographical scope–the common law mark only covers the actual area where the mark is used, the federal mark covers the whole country. I’m probably not remembering this all exactly, but I think that’s mostly right.

            1. Thanks. Now off to learn more about what I thought was common law copyright.

  7. Besides learning philosophy and biology, many college students also learn their preferences in alcoholic beverages (one hopes they choose single malt scotch).

    It took me until law school. Slow learner, I guess.

    1. I didn’t drink till college – at which point I made up for lost time and went pro.

      God bless Theta Chi fraternity for teaching me how to drink…

  8. All I know is that there were times in college that I was too drunk to fuck.

    1. Being too drunk to fuck saved me on more than one occasion.

      1. Ofcourse being that drunk got me into those situations.

  9. Why is that bikini bottom pixelated?

    1. Did you ever see The Crying Game?

      1. don’t ruin the ending!

  10. does REASON propose completely eliminating drinking ages?

    Speaking strictly on my own behalf: yes.

    1. What business does the state have telling any adult he or she may not have a drink?

      What business does the state have telling any parent that they may not decide when or if their kids should not have a drink?

      1. I agree. Which is why the age of majority should be 30.

        1. Bring up kids and the inner fascist in ProL comes out. I don’t care if you’re (you know who) to your kids, dude, but you don’t get to be so to anyone else’s.

          1. I’m only a fascist in my own home.

            1. My 22-year-old is being wooed by multiple law schools. Which I think makes him more responsible than I am. (He’s also a teetotaler, on principle, like Penn Jillette. Which I KNOW makes him more responsible than I am.)

              1. There are exceptions, of course.

                Incidentally, tell your 22-year old to get a degree in something useful, like engineering. They’ll be sending excess attorneys to Carousel in a few years.

              2. Dude, do NOT, under ANY circumstances, allow your offspring to go to law school right now.

                I am not joking. I am dead serious. I am an attorney in a big law firm, and let me tell you, the market right now for law grads is lower than in the shitter. I know many lawyers – classmates of mine – who have been laid off in the last two years. Lawyers nationwide have been laid off by the thousands. New law grads are finding themselves with $150,000 in debt and no job prospects.

                There are lawyers committing suicide – I’m not kidding here.

                1. The market is bad, no doubt about it.

  11. “Until now, all leading estimates were based not on actual measures of college student data but rather on the assumption that college student drinking and driving fatality rates were the same as the general population,” Turner said.

    If I read this correctly, the original high fatality rates given by MADD were based on the assumption that college students were no worse than the general population. In fact, the rates are much lower than the general population? (I am assuming that by “general population” they are referring to the normal age cohort for college students.)

  12. Sorry, I stay away from all types of Whiskey… bad incident when I was 18. Let’s say, drinking an entire bottle in 30 minutes is not a good idea.

    1. The bottles are smaller now. You should try again.

  13. Besides learning philosophy and biology, many college students also learn their preferences in alcoholic beverages (one hopes they choose single malt scotch).

    Who has money for decent Scotch in college? Unless your favorite drink is whatever costs less than $10 for a half gallon, I don’t think that happens too much.

  14. It’s hard to get killed drunk driving when neither you nor any of your roommates own a car.

  15. In truth all dui death rates are overstated,to say the least.

  16. Either way you have to be careful for young drivers on the road but also Older drivers as well. Thanks for posting this article.

  17. Either way you have to be careful for young drivers on the road but also Older drivers as well. Thanks for posting this article.

  18. Either way you must always be careful of younger drivers and older people on the road. Thanks for article.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.