What 1 in 4 Teens Do Behind the Wheel

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Nearly one-quarter of teens admit to drinking and driving
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According to a new study, 23 percent of teens admit they have driven under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or illegal prescription drugs. Worse yet, these teens say they don't believe such behavior is dangerous.

Indeed, nearly 20 percent of those teens who drive under the influence of alcohol think it improves their driving, as does 34% of teens who drive under the influence of marijuana.

These are just some of the sobering findings of a new survey conducted by SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and insurer Liberty Mutual.

Among many parents, Stephen Wallace, SADD's senior adviser for policy, research and education, says: “There is a been-there, done-that attitude when it comes to impaired driving."

A lot of parents grew up on the don't-drink-and-drive message. They figure, 'Our kids hear this all the time,' because they heard it all the time."

Dave Melton, managing director of global road safety for Liberty Mutual, says he thinks parents are fooling themselves.

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"In some cases, parents are thinking of their own teen years and not realizing that things have changed drastically since then," says Melton.

The survey of 1,708 11th- and 12th-graders sheds light on the important role parents play in keeping teens safe behind the wheel. According to the survey’s findings, teens are more likely to drink around relatively unsupervised events, such as the Fourth of July or during the summer, than during heavily supervised activities like proms or graduations.

MADD was founded in 1980; SADD in 1981.

Approximately 90 percent of high schools today have policies or programs to combat illegal behavior, such as driving under the influence. Moreover, the use of breathalyzers at high school events is up 24 percent since the previous school year.

To make a bad situation worse, the survey also found that nearly twice as many teens report drinking on summer vacation than those who admit drinking after prom or graduation.

Cathy Chase of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety says the percentage of teens who think they can drive safely after drinking or using marijuana “seems high”.

“But unfortunately, it's not surprising because teens think they're invincible and they thing nothing will happen to them,” Chase said. “Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a friend or someone in their school getting killed before the reality kind of hits them."

SOURCE: Nordqvist, Christian. "One Quarter Of Teens Drive Under The Influence." MediLexicon, Intl., 28 Apr. 2013.

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