Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Prevent underage drinking and driving

December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.

What is the problem?
In Seattle, 18% of 10th grade students and 20% of 12th grade students report recently riding in a car with someone who has been drinking (2012 Healthy Youth Survey).  Last year, Prevention WINS released a video about how drinking and driving affected one NE Seattle teenager.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • 85% of teens in high school who report drinking and driving in the past month also say they binge drank. In the survey, binge drinking was defined as having 5 or more alcoholic drinks within a couple of hours.
  • 1 in 5 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had some alcohol in their system in 2010. Most of these drivers (81%) had alcohol levels higher than the legal limit for adults.

Driving under the influence (DUI) is not only about alcohol  It's also about driving under the influence of prescription medications and marijuana.  According to the Washington State Toxicology Lab, marijuana impairment among drivers under the age of 21 is a serious problem.

  • One quarter of DUI cases that are marijuana related are aged under 21 years.
  • Marijuana is the most frequently detected drug in those under 21 years (including alcohol).

What can be done?
In proclaiming December National Impaired Driving Month,  President Obama states:

Everyone has a role to play in keeping our roads safe -- from parents, schools, and businesses to faith-based and community organizations. Together, we can teach young people, friends, and fellow citizens how to avoid a crash brought on by impaired driving. I encourage all Americans to designate a non-drinking driver, plan ahead for alternative transportation, or make arrangements to stay with family and friends before consuming alcohol. Americans should also know what precautions to take if using over-the-counter or prescription medication. 

Parents, in particular, have a significant role to play.  From the CDC:

Parental involvement, with a focus on monitoring and restricting what new drivers are allowed to do, helps keep new drivers safe as they learn to drive. Parents can consider creating and signing a parent-teen driving agreement with their teens. Research has shown that when parents establish and enforce the “rules of the road”, new drivers report lower rates of risky driving, traffic violations, and crashes.

Learn more at the CDC webpage about Teen Drinking and Driving.

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