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This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported results of a study on drinking and driving in teenagers aged 16 years old and older. Overall, teenage drinking and driving is down 54% in the past 20 years. Despite this improvement, one if five teen drivers involved in a crash where someone died had alcohol in their system in 2010. As of 2011, 90% of teens are not drinking and driving although nearly a million high school teens aged 16 years and older drove after drinking alcohol in 2011. The CDC calculated that high school teens were still responsible for nearly 2.4 million episodes of drinking a driving each month last year.

Drivers aged 16 to 20 years old are 17 times more likely to die in a car crash when they have a blood alcohol above the legal limit of 0.08. Teenagers who drink and drive are more likely to binge drink– defined as five or more drinks in a single setting. The CDC reported that 85% of teens who drove after drinking in the prior month had been binge drinking.

Improvements in drinking and driving rates are related to a variety of factors. The minimum legal drinking age is now 21 years instead of 18 years in every state. Zero tolerance laws have also made a difference. By law, teenagers should have no alcohol in their system when driving. Graduated driver’s licenses where new drivers gain more experience under less risky conditions are present in every state.

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