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CDC Report: Fewer Teens Drink and Drive

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CDC posterDrinking and driving among teens dropped by almost half from 1991 to 2011, according to an announcement on Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And as Steven Reinberg reports for U.S. News HealthDay, these figures represent a decline of 54% when computed over two decades.

The new statistics appear in the October issue of the CDC’s Vital Signs Report: Teen Drinking and Driving: A Dangerous Mix, Reinberg notes. He quotes CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden as saying that although some of the data reflect good news, the fact remains that car accidents are still the leading cause of death for teens.

“There are more than 2,000 teens aged 16 to 19 killed on the road each year, and many of those deaths are alcohol-related,” Frieden said. One in five teen drivers involved in a fatal crash in 2010 had alcohol in their system, he added, as Reinberg reports.

MyHealthNewsDaily staff writes for in a Yahoo! News article, that despite the drop, “that still means that 1 million teens drank and drove in 2011.” writes that binge drinking — defined as having at least five alcoholic drinks within a few hours — was reported by 85% of high school teens who said they had been drinking and driving in the past month.

To create the report, the CDC used data from the 1991 to 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, in which teens were asked if they had driven after drinking once or more in the past month, Reinberg writes. In a Reuters article appearing in The Christian Science Monitor, David Beasley writes that that data came from thousands of high school students via national surveys and from 41 states.

The CDC credited the decrease in teen drinking and driving to stricter laws against drunk driving and restrictions on teen driving privileges, such as the hours they are permitted to drive at night, Beasley writes. Another factor in the decrease, according to the CDC, was that high school students were driving less, perhaps because of higher gasoline prices and the economic downturn, Beasley writes.

But more work needs to be done. Beasley notes that drinking and driving among teens causes more than 800 deaths annually, and car crashes remain the leading cause of death among teens aged 16-19, according to the CDC.

Among the report’s highlights, as reported by Reinberg, are:

Boys 18 and older were most likely to drive after drinking (18 percent), and 16-year-old girls were least likely (6 percent). […]

The six states where teenage drinking and driving rates were higher than average were Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, Texas and Wyoming, while drivers in the following nine states were least likely to drink and get behind the wheel: Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah and Virginia.

Reinberg writes that proven ways to reduce teen drinking and driving include restricting the legal drinking age to 21, implementing graduated driver licensing systems (which are in effect in every state, but with varying rules), and parent-teen driving agreements that limit teen driving. He goes on to say:

These agreements can include a ban on drinking and driving, insistence on obeying driving laws, including wearing seatbelts, and limiting night driving and the number of teen passengers, Frieden said. Agreements can also include not texting or talking on a cellphone, he added.

For more information on teen driving, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website:


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