Los Angeles, CA- Car collisions are the leading cause of accidental death for American teens. That’s due in part to their inexperience but drinking and driving, though not as prevalent among all age groups as in the past, remains an issue for teens. And a new study suggests that riding with intoxicated drivers has a negative influence on teens, making them more likely to drive drunk themselves.
The study, which Live Science first reported on, was conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland, found that 10th graders who rode with intoxicated drivers were 21 times more likely to drive drunk by their senior year.
The study also found that teens that were exposed to intoxicated drivers early on were more likely to drive intoxicated. The researchers also found that teens who obtained their driver’s license at an earlier age had an increased likelihood of driving while intoxicated later on.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise that you’re more likely to drink and drive if you’ve been around others who drink and drive and you ride with them,” researcher Bruce Simons-Morton said. “But it’s just wildly associated with the risk of driving while intoxicated.”
The researchers for the study analyzed data collected from 2,500 U.S. students in grades 10 through 12 over a three year period. Teens were asked how often they were in a vehicle with an intoxicated driver and were asked how often in the past month they drove under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
One on three 10th graders said they were passengers in a car driven by an intoxicated driver. The teens who had ridden with an intoxicated driver were 127 times more likely to drive while intoxicated by their senior year.
Researcher Simons-Morton said that study suggests that this is “socially influenced behavior.” He says the behavior becomes normalized and it appears that intoxicated driving is accepted among some peer groups.
Drinking and driving rates have declined over the past decade, but it is still a major problem and contributes to a large portion of auto accidents. Alcohol can cloud a person’s judgment and combined with inexperience can be a deadly combination for teen drivers.
Simons-Morton said it is important for parents to monitor who their teens ride with and emphasize that “no friend lets their friend ride or drive when intoxicated.”
Teens that drive under the influence are putting themselves and others in danger, but that isn’t the only risk they face. When a teen is charged with driving under the influence, they face legal consequences that can include jail time, loss of their license, costly fines and a mar of their record.
A DUI conviction as a teen can keep a young person from getting into the college of their choice or securing future employment. A teen that has been charged with driving under the influence can stop the negative ramifications by hiring DUI attorney to help them with their defense.