Young motorists five times more likely to drink-drive if their parents do

21st December 2015

  • One in four parents with children old enough to drive admit to drink-driving
  • Yet 79 per cent of these parents actively encourage their children not to drink-drive themselves
  • 37 per cent of young motorists admit to drink-driving in the past
  • But this rises to 70 per cent for those whose parents drink-drive and falls to 14 per cent for those whose parents do not
  • One in eight young motorists see their parents drink-driving 'quite often' or 'regularly'
  • 60 per cent of young drivers whose parents drink-drive feel this is irresponsible

Young motorists are five times more likely to drink-drive if their parents do, according to a new study from Churchill Car Insurance1.

More than a third (37 per cent) of motorists aged 17 to 25 admit to drink-driving but this changes significantly depending on the behaviour of their parents. Amongst those who say their parents drink-drive, 70 per cent admit to drink-driving themselves. Of those that have not witnessed their parents drink-driving, just 14 per cent admit to doing so.

One in four (24 per cent) parents with children old enough to drive admit to getting behind the wheel whilst over the legal limit, raising concerns over the safety of those drivers and the influence this risky behaviour has on their children.

"Drink as I say, not as I do" appears to be the motto for many parents, as 79 per cent of those who admit to drink driving themselves actively encourage their children not to do the same.

Churchill asked those young drivers who have seen their parents get behind the wheel after drinking too much how they felt about it and the majority (60 per cent) felt it was irresponsible. Almost a quarter (23 per cent) however, did not see any problem with it.

Steve Barrett, head of car insurance at Churchill, commented: "The immediate risks that those who drink-drive pose to other road users are widely known and very serious, but the knock-on impact on younger generations is extremely worrying. By drink-driving, parents are unofficially sanctioning this behaviour and as a result, young drivers are far more likely to put themselves and other road users at risk by driving whilst intoxicated."

The perception amongst young motorists of their parents' driving habits paints a worrying picture, with 41 per cent stating they had seen their parents drink drive in the past with 12 per cent observing this 'quite often' or 'regularly'.

Reasons for drink driving
The justifications for drink driving given by parents and by young drivers were very similar. Both cited a confidence in their ability to drive despite being intoxicated as the number one reason and the fact that they did not feel drunk at the time as the second.

Reasons for drink driving % of those who admitted to drink driving that cited this reason
Drivers aged 17 - 25 Parents with children of a driving age
I was confident in my ability to drive safely 47% 37%
I did not feel drunk at all 34% 33%
It was an emergency 30% 17%
I had no other alternative form of transport 16% 17%
I've never had a problem doing it in the past 15% 6%
I was encouraged to do it by my partner/friends 14% 1%
I thought the likelihood of getting caught was slim 13% 18%
I needed the car the next day 3% 10%
I was so drunk I didn't know what I was doing 3% 5%
I don't know why I did it 2% 12%

Barrett added "Just because a driver can't feel the effects of the alcohol they've consumed, doesn't mean they are legally OK to drive or that it's safe to do so We'd urge parents to help convey this message by practicing what they preach and ensuring they never get behind the wheel if there's a chance they may be over the limit."

Notes to editors:

  • 1 Study conducted by Opinium Research 4th to 8th December 2015, amongst 251 17-25 year old drivers and 503 driving parents of children aged 17+.

For further information

Kia McLean
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Tel: 0207 282 1092

Chloe French
PR Manager
Direct Line Group
Tel: 01651 831715


Founded in 1989, Churchill is now one of the UK’s leading providers of general insurance, offering car, home, travel and pet insurance cover over the phone or on-line.

Churchill general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Churchill and U K Insurance Limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Churchill products or get a quote by calling 0300 200300 or visiting