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Rate of teen drinking and driving drops, CDC reports


The rate of high school students ages 16 and older who drove after drinking alcohol decreased by 54% between 1991 and 2011, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nine out of 10 students in that age group did not drink and drive during 2011.

“We are moving in the right direction,” CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release. “Rates of teen drinking and driving have been cut in half in 20 years. But we must keep up the momentum — one in 10 high school teens, ages 16 and older, drinks and drives each month, endangering themselves and others.”

For the study, the CDC analyzed data from the 1991-2011 national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys. These national surveys asked high school students whether they had driven a vehicle when they had been drinking alcohol one or more times during the 30 days before the survey. CDC researchers focused their analysis on students ages 16 and older.

Teens were responsible for approximately 2.4 million episodes of drinking and driving a month in 2011, according to the data. Some engaged in the behavior more than once a month.

High school boys ages 18 and older were most likely to drink and drive (18%), while 16-year-old high school girls were least likely (6%).

Of high school teens who reported drinking and driving in the past month, 85% also reported binge drinking (defined in the study as consuming five or more drinks within a couple of hours).

“Teens learn from adults,” said Pamela S. Hyde, administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “That is why it is critically important that parents, teachers, coaches and all caring adults in a young person’s life talk with them early and often about the dangers of underage alcohol use as well as drinking and driving.”

The CDC’s Parents Are the Key campaign ( offers parents of teen drivers information, tools and proven tips to help protect their teens from crashes.

The report appears in the October issue of Vital Signs and is available at


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