The present study investigated the extent to which drinking in specific locations and heavy drinking mediated the effects of overall alcohol use on driving after drinking (DD) and riding with drinking drivers (RWDD) among young people. Additionally, this study examined the relationships among ethnicity, gender, drinking in specific locations, and DD and RWDD.
Using random-digit dialing procedures, participants were recruited to take part in a telephone survey in California, United States of America. Participants were 1,534 youth, ages 15-20 years (mean age = 17.6). Latinos, African Americans, and Asian Americans were over-sampled to allow cross-group comparisons. Along with background characteristics, overall alcohol use, heavy drinking, drinking in specific locations, DD, and RWDD were measured.
Latent variable structural equation modeling showed that European Americans, males, older adolescents, those who have a driver license, and those who drive more often were more likely to report drinking alcohol in the past year. Heavy episodic drinking and drinking in cars increased both DD and RWDD. Drinking in restaurants also increased DD. The effects of overall alcohol consumption on DD were entirely mediated through heavy episodic drinking and drinking in restaurants and cars. Alcohol consumption had both direct and indirect effects on RWDD. With the exception of being Latino and frequency of driving, the effects of the background variables on RWDD were all entirely mediated through alcohol consumption.
Heavy drinking and drinking in specific locations appeared to be important unique predictors of both DD and RWDD. In light of the relationship between drinking in restaurants and in cars, and DD, prevention programs and policies aimed at underage drinking should focus on developing more effective responsible beverage service programs, increasing compliance with laws limiting alcohol sales to youth, and enforcing graduated driver licensing and zero tolerance laws.