Nearly quarter of teens drive impaired at some point, national survey says

Published: Saturday, April 27 2013 11:56 p.m. MDT

Of the 1,708 11th- and 12th-graders questioned in a survey, 23 percent said they had driven while under the influence at some point.

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Nearly one in four teens drives under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs or marijuana, according to a survey of juniors and seniors conducted for Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Liberty Mutual. Worse, some of them think it improves their driving.

Of the 1,708 11th- and 12th-graders questioned, 23 percent said they had driven while under the influence at some point. Wrote USA Today's Larry Copeland, "What's worse, they don't view themselves as a danger: Almost 20 percent of those who drink and drive say it improves their driving, a view shared by 34 percent of those who drive under the influence of marijuana."

"The end of the school year and the summer months are exciting times for teens, but they are also the most dangerous," said Dave Melton, a driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and managing director of global safety, in a written statement. "A celebratory toast can quickly lead to serious consequences down the line. These new data illustrate that there is clearly a strong need to increase the level of education around safe driving. More importantly, it's a flag for parents to make sure they talk to their kids regularly about the importance of safe driving behavior."

The survey said that teens were less likely to drink during activities like proms and graduations, where parents were around, than in situations with less direct, focused supervision, like summer school breaks.

As for school events, the insurance company said that use of deterrents like breathalyzers are up 25 percent.

In 2012's survey, teens admitted in high numbers that they talk on a cellphone while driving (90 percent), speed (88 percent), and text (78 percent). One-third say they drive without a seat belt.

Liberty Mutual said that when parents and teens communicate well, teens take fewer risks. Its suggestions include praising kids for doing little things that too often are taken for granted, set a good example, don't avoid talking about tough subjects, listen to your teens, lighten up and show respect and love for your child, among other things. The big one, though, is "don't ever give up."

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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