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CDC Reports Huge Drop in Teenage Drinking and Driving

10/10/2012
If you've got a teenager in the house, you know it's homecoming season. The big game, the big dance, and the big parties are right around the corner. Now is a great time to talk about drinking and driving with your teenager.

According to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of teenagers who have driven a car after consuming alcohol decreased by 54% between 1991 and 2011. In the most recent year of the study, only 10% of teenagers had driven a car after drinking beer, wine or spirits.

"We are moving in the right direction," said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Rates of teen drinking and driving have been cut in half in 20 years. But we must keep up the momentum [because] one in 10 high school teens, aged 16 and older, drinks and drives each month, endangering themselves and others."

To generate its data, the CDC analyzed information from its Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, in which high school students are asked if, during the 30-day period leading up to the survey, they had driven a vehicle after drinking alcohol. Among students aged 16 and older, the study found that:

  • Boys aged 18 and older were the most likely to drink and drive, with 18% of them reporting they had done so
  • Girls aged 16 were the least likely to drink and drive, with 6% of them reporting they had done so
  • Among teen drivers reporting they had driven after consuming alcohol, 85% also reported engaging in binge drinking behavior, consuming five or more beverages in a short period of time

The CDC acknowledges that laws restricting the sale of alcohol to people aged 21 or over, making it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drive after consuming any alcohol, and graduated driver license programs have had a positive effect in reducing the number of teens who drink and drive. Parents, according to the CDC, also play a critical role in keeping their kids safe.

"Teens learn from adults," said Pamela S. Hyde, the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "That is why it is critically important that parents, teachers, coaches, and all caring adults in a young person's life talk with them early and often about the dangers of underage alcohol use as well as drinking and driving."

Additionally, the CDC recommends that parents model safe driving behavior for their teenagers, and using parent-teen safe driving agreements to make sure younger drivers have strong role models and clearly defined expectations with regard to driving privileges.

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