Drinking and Driving Attitudes and Behaviors among Current Junior and Senior Students in High Schools in Illinois*













Dale O. Ritzel, Dan Shannon, Dennis Leitner, George Vineyard,

Donna Bernert, Jennifer Kampmeier, Keith White



Southern Illinois University

Carbondale, IL 62901-6731











*Project Funded by the

Illinois Secretary of State


Illinois Department of Transportation

Drinking and Driving Attitudes and Behaviors among Current Junior and Senior High School Students in Illinois



Nationally, drunk driving is the leading cause of death among young Americans.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic crashes are the greatest single cause of death for every age from five (5) through twenty-seven (27), with almost half of these crashes being alcohol related.  Furthermore, NHTSA reports that with the expanding population, and if the fatality rates remain constant, 462 additional young people will die each year in motor vehicle crashes.  Thus, the number of alcohol-related fatalities will increase as well.  Also, there have been an increasing number of incidents nationwide where a teen/young adult has drunk excessively, or binged, and then died.  In national surveys, about a third of high school seniors and 42% of college students reported at least one occasion of binge drinking (the consumption of five or more drinks in a row on at least one occasion) with the previous two weeks.  Recent studies indicate graduates pursuing post secondary education is also on the rise thus increasing the target population for anti-drinking/driving awareness efforts.  Although current programs are in effect which target the high school age group, there is a need to identify the exact behaviors and attitudes of students seeking higher education in order to implement programs, which more directly target these problem areas.


1.  To identify drinking and driving attitudes and behaviors among current junior (11th grade) and senior (12th grade) high school students in both public and private schools in Illinois.

2.  To make recommendations to SOS about possible media/print materials that they should develop for post secondary (college and university) students in the state of Illinois.

3.  To develop and print media relating to alcohol and driving for post secondary students in the state of Illinois.




Subject Selection and Data Gathering Process


The high school students who participated in the survey of Drinking and Driving Attitudes and Behaviors among Current Junior and Senior High School Students in Illinois was selected through a random process based upon the school listing obtained from the Illinois State Board of Education.  The following steps will be followed:

1.         SIUC project staff first divided the schools listed by the Illinois State Board of   Education into the ten regions served by the Illinois High School and College Driver Education Association (IHSCDEA). 

2.         Four schools were randomly selected from each region to serve as a potential site for administering questionnaires to students who were juniors and seniors.

3.         Project staff secured permission to administer surveys to students in two randomly selected public schools per region.  Project staff randomly selected five private schools to complete the sample.

4.         SIUC project staff mailed the surveys to a selected staff person in the randomly selected schools from which permission has been obtained.  The school staff person administered the surveys to a selected group of juniors and seniors. The goal was to survey between 30-40 students per selected school.  The data obtained from high school students began on 1 April and ended on 15 May 2000.

Additional Comments

We had hoped to generate 400-500 surveys completed by high school students from about 25 schools.   All ten regions of the state was represented in the survey process.  The schools sampled represented the diversity of students in the State of Illinois, including gender, racial mix, urban/rural, and large/small.  The four schools in each region from which two will be selected are listed below:

Region 1         Chicago Bogan, Chicago Lane Tech, Chicago Curie, and Chicago                               Mather

Region 2         Maine East, Proviso West, Zion-Benton, and New Trier

Region 3         Lincoln-Way, Thornridge, Lake Park, and Andrew 

Region 4         Eastland, Naperville Central, St. Charles, and Central District 301                         (Burlington)

Region 5         Macomb, Rockridge, Quincy, and Beardstown

Region 6         Springfield High, Peoria H.S., Washington, and Mason City

Region 7         Urbana, Tolono Unity, Bismark-Henning, and Danville

Region 8         Neoga, Robinson, Olney, and Effingham

Region 9         Cahokia, Valmeyer, Belleville East, and Highland

Region 10       Murphysboro, Edwards County, Mt. Vernon, and Sparta              


The private schools from which five will be selected are listed below:


Belleville Althoff

Bloomington Central Catholic

Breese Mater Dei

Chicago Hales Franciscan

Chicago Gordon Tech

Effingham St. Anthony

Normal, University High School

Peoria Notre Dame

Providence (New Lenox)

Waterloo Gibault


For reasons of protecting the identity of those schools who actually participated and had students complete surveys, we will not indicate any of the 27 schools who were involved in the study.


The Sample Size and its Representativeness


The size of the sample and its representativeness are two of the most important factors in any study trying to infer from the characteristics of a sample to the characteristics of a population.  In this study, we were trying to infer statistics about drinking, driving, etc. of at least 400 students to all students in the State of Illinois.  Random sampling was the best way to ensure a representative sample.  A reasonably large sample size provides confidence in the interpretations because the sampling error (the extent to which statistical results, such as means and standard deviations, vary from sample to sample) decreases as the sample size increases.

Survey Development


The development of the survey instruments that were completed by students required several steps.  The first step will involve a review of existing survey instruments which deal with the six (6) issues in this study, namely:

1.  Binge drinking

2.  Access to alcohol

3.  Drinking and driving

4.  Being a passenger of a drinking driver

5.  Availability of fake ID=s

6.  Location(s) of drinking event (s)

The second step involved the development of an closed-ended questionnaire.  In order to develop our own survey we thoroughly reviewed two of the most used youth and college age student surveys.

The 1999 Youth Risk Behavior Survey was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Until this decade, little was known about the prevalence of behaviors practiced by young people that put their health at risk. The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) now provides such information. Developed by CDC in collaboration with federal, state, and private‑sector partners, this voluntary system includes a national survey and surveys conducted by state and local education agencies. The YRBSS provides vital information on risk behaviors among young people to more effectively target and improve health programs.  Two sections of the YRBSS were reviewed for use: 

Alcohol and other drug use.

Behaviors that may result in intentional injuries (violence and suicide) and unintentional injuries (motor vehicle crashes).

The CORE survey of alcohol and drug use by students at colleges and universities was also reviewed for potential or partial use.  The CORE survey was developed by the Student Health Programs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and has been extensively used for the past 12 years throughout the United States.  Today, over 800 colleges and universities use this instrument in their assessment of alcohol and drug use by their students.

After this assessment, a draft questionnaire was developed and shared with the Illinois Secretary of State (SOS) staff for comments.  The comments were used to further refine the student questionnaires.   

After receiving input from the SOS, the survey instrument was pilot tested.  The pilot testing of the student survey was conducted with a class of  junior and senior level students attending a local High School.  No revisions were made to the instruments as a result of the pilot test.  The final surveys were then printed.

Data Collection

In order to survey students, SIUC staff divided the schools into the ten regions defined by the Illinois High School and College Driver Education Association.  SIUC staff randomly selected four schools in each region from which at least two schools were surveyed.  The students from the selected schools were chosen by class (usually a physical education class, study hall, or health class) by the contact person (principal, department chair, driver education teacher, etc.).  Through this contact person, the SIUC staff sent the surveys explaining the purpose of the study and distributing a letter which further explains the survey purpose and procedures.  One week before the survey was administered, a copy of parental approval letter was given to each student (a copy of the letter is enclosed).  Students were asked to bring back a parent signed copy of the letter if their parents agreed to let the student participate in the survey.  On the designated date, a local teacher or administrator distributed the survey, pencils, and participation letter, while further explaining how to answer the questionnaire (a copy of the instructions to the facilitator is enclosed).  All students were asked, not told, to participate in the study.  Surveys were  administered in schools representing all ten IHSCDEA regions of the State.  A copy of the student survey and letters are enclosed.



Demographic characteristics of the sample

The sample consisted of 27 schools located through all ten regions of Illinois, including 5 private/parochial schools.  One thousand surveys were mailed to the schools, an average of 38 surveys per school, with 634 returned and analyzed, thus giving a return rate of 63%.  The sample consisted of juniors (40%) and seniors (60%),  with males (42%) and females (58%).  Twelve percent of the students were 16 years of age or less, 41% were seventeen years old and 47% were 18 years or older. 

The vast majority (83%) of the sample was White.  Blacks accounted for 7%, Hispanic (6%) with American Indian, Asian and Pacific Islander and others accounting for the remaining 4% of those sampled.  More than 90% of the students said they planned on attending college.  The grade point averages of the sampled students ranged from A (23%) B students (50%), C students (27%).  The amount of time students worked at outside jobs varied with the plurality (46%) working less than or equal to 20 hours a week and 30% working  more than 20 hours a week.  About 24% of the students did not work at all.

Student behaviors and perceptions of others

The majority (53%) of the students sampled did not participate in binge drinking.  Less than 73% believed that the average high school student drinks once a week or less, and less than 86% believed the average high school student is a passenger with somebody who had been drinking once a week or less.  They had a perception that college students drink much more frequently.  Over 72% believed that college students drink 3 times a week or more, and were passengers with somebody that had been drinking 3 times or more a week (38%).  

Almost 49% of these high school students reported that the source of information about the drinking behaviors of college students was through a friend.  Their perception about how their peers viewed drinking varied with the level or the amount of drinking: 53% not caring if they had 1 or 2 drinks or but 43% would not care if they binge drank once.  However, when asked about binge drinking on a daily basis, they felt that their peers would disapprove or strongly disapprove 82% of the time.  Slightly over 72% also felt that consuming two or fewer drinks contained a slight or no risk, but over 78% felt that binge drinking even once was of moderate or great risk.

Almost 78% of the students reported having their first before the age of 16.   Average number of drinks per week of the sample was 4 with the median being 1.  In other words, half the sample consumed one drink or less per week.   During the past 30 days 60% said they had drank two or fewer days, with 0 days accounting for the largest percentage, 36%. 

Locations for drinking showed about equal spread across three of the choices, at home (52%), secret location (46%) and in a car (40%).  Private party was the preferred location to drink of all the selections (73%), and at school being the least likely location (8%). 

Almost 60% of the students reported never drinking and driving over the past year  and 40% were never passengers with someone who had been drinking over the past year.   This trend remained stable when the students were asked about the past thirty days, where 67% said that had not been driving after drinking and 52% said they were not passengers with someone who had been drinking. 

About being cited for DUI, illegal transportation, or zero tolerance over 93% said that they had never been ticketed.  The majority students (92%) said that they did not possess a fake ID, nor have they used a fake ID (90%) but they did know someone with a fake ID (68%).  Approximately 44% of students know how to get a fake ID but the majority of students said they could get one through a friend (64%).  Almost 66%  of the students reported that it is somewhat or very easy to obtain a fake ID.

Inferential Analyses

    Analysis was conducted using question number 8, the average number of drinks per week, as the dependent variable.  It should be noted that to remove the effect of extreme outliers,  students who reported drinking more than 30 drinks per week were removed from the sample.  Using that criterion 3% of the sample was dropped from all subsequent analysis.  Differences were looked for by examining question number 8 versus all the demographic variables (questions 1 B 7). 

Seniors had a greater average drinks per week than Juniors (p<.001) . Males drink a greater number of drinks per week than females (p<.0001).  Students 18 years or older drank more than the other age categories (p<.001).  Students who had an A average in school drank less than B or C students (p<.001).  These results paint the profile of the problem drinking student as a male senior who is 18 years old or older and has less than an A average in school.