A survey of teen drinking found good news and bad news - more than half of the youths ages 16 to 19 said they drank during the preceding month, but nearly two-thirds said they always appoint a designated driver.

Still, even the good news in Tuesday's study had a twist: 80 percent think it's fine to drink as long as there is a designated driver, and nearly half think that designated drivers can still drink."We're not impressing on kids the fact that getting drunk can be dangerous," said Dr. Richard Heyman, a Cincinnati pediatrician and chairman of the substance abuse committee at the American Academy of Pediatrics, which released the study.

The results mirror a much larger government-supported study of 51,000 high school students released in December.

The telephone survey, conducted between Aug. 24 and Sept. 3, has an margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Both surveys found that teens generally drink to get drunk, with the new results showing nearly 30 percent down six or more drinks each outing. Fifty-one percent said they consume between two and five drinks at a sitting.

"They don't stand around like an adult with their beer in their hand at a cocktail party. They take a six-pack," Heyman said. "They are mind-altering drinkers."

Findings include:

- Sixty-one percent said they'd consumed alcohol within the preceding month.

- Nearly a third mistakenly think a can of beer is less intoxicating than a shot of vodka.

- Boys and girls average about the same number of drinking days a month - 5.6 days and 5.2 days respectively. Boys are more likely than girls to have had six or more drinks in the preceding month - 32 percent vs. 22 percent.

- The average age when drinking begins is 14.

- Sixty-four percent say they avoid drunken driving by always appointing a designated driver when drinking with friends.

- Eighty percent think it's OK to drink with friends as long as there is a designated driver.

"Teens have the unfortunate misconception that if they designate a driver, they can still drink as much as they like," said Dr. Joseph R. Zanga, the academy's president.

Only 2 percent think designated drivers can drink five or more drinks. Nineteen percent think one drink is acceptable for a designated driver, and 17 percent think two drinks are OK.

Only about half "agree that a designated driver should not have a drink. Usually they just mean, `Someone who drinks less than I do,' " Heyman said.