Drunk Driving Starts Young

Study of 12-Year-Olds’ Views Hint at DUI Risk.

Drunk DrivingA study of kids in the Los Angeles area suggests a specific way to reduce the risk that they will drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol as teenagers. This is accomplished by challenging their beliefs about marijuana as early as sixth grade. The 12-year-olds who believed that marijuana could help them relax or be otherwise beneficial were significantly more likely to drive under the influence when they were 16 than 12-year-olds who had negative views of marijuana. They were also significantly more likely to ride with someone else who was buzzed, drunk or high behind the wheel, according to the study. This study was published October 5, 2015 in the journal Pediatrics.

The study indicates that youth view marijuana use as less dangerous than drinking. Driving under the influence is common among American teenagers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 10 percent of high school students drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs in any given month, and more than 20 percent have been passengers of someone driving under the influence. Researchers from Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, California and Arlington, Virginia looked for risk factors in middle school that could predict these dangerous behaviors in high school. Using statistical models to control for the student’s age, gender, race and ethnicity, school and whether their mothers had graduated from high school, the researchers identified several factors that seemed to predict unsafe driving, include drunk driving, at age 16.

Kids who had warmer, fuzzier ideas about marijuana use when they were 12 were 63 percent more likely than their peers to admit either driving under the influence themselves or to ride with someone who was driving under the influence, according to the study. In addition, 12-year-olds who felt most confident that they could resist marijuana use wound up being 89 percent more likely to mix alcohol and drugs with cars, motorcycles or other vehicles.

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