Government says fewer teens driving drunk

Here is a sobering thought; The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says at least one million teenagers drove drunk in 2001, many of them more than once. Safety experts say teens are three times more likely to get into a crash while driving under the influence, primarily owing to their inexperience with both alcohol and driving. But there is some good news from the CDC as well. Since 1991, the number of teenaged drunk drivers has decreased by more than half. Credit more parental involvement, zero tolerance laws and graduated licensing programs for this welcome trend but there is still reason for concern. In any given month, more than 2.4 million intoxicated teens are on the nation’s roads and highways.

Young drunk drivers are also binge drinkers. The CDC says 85 percent powered down five or more drinks in a two-hour time span before hitting the road. One out of five teens involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their systems and most were legally drunk. Geography is also a predictor of teen drunk driving. Between 9 and 11 percent of underage Floridians say they do it, and across the border in Alabama the number is almost 15 percent.

Not surprisingly, 18 year-old males are the prime offenders; 18 year-old females are less likely to drive drunk. This particular bad habit starts young. The CDC says 7 percent of 16 year-olds, most of whom have learner’s permits or restricted licenses, admitted to consuming alcohol while driving. Teenage drunk driving is most prevalent among Hispanics, followed by whites and non-Hispanic blacks.

So who should be taking the lead in preventing this problem? The CDC places most of that burden on parents. It’s up to them to watch for suspicious signs, check up on where teens are going and with whom, and even conduct a surprise breath check now and then. A few seconds spent on prevention can spare families a lifetime of sorrow.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Teen Drinking and Driving,” Oct. 2012