A third of teenagers have ridden in a car with a drunk or drugged driver, new figures reveal.
Researchers backed by the National Institutes of Health analyzed two years of data on more than 2,700 teens from 81 schools across the United States, starting at grade 10.
They found that within two years of graduating high school, one in three had been a passenger in a car whose ‘designated driver’ was under the influence.
A quarter (23 percent) had ridden with a driver high on marijuana, 20 percent with a drunk driver, and six percent admitted to being driven by a friend on illicit drugs like cocaine, opioids or amphetamines.
The researchers from Colorado State University, the Colorado School of Public Health and Yale University said the bleak figures show public health efforts to educate teens about the dangers of DUI are not working.
‘These behaviors are not isolated, especially in young people. When one risk behavior is present, it can definitely influence other behaviors,’ study author Kaigang Li said.
‘We want them to conclude that “friends don’t let friends engage in risky behaviors.”
‘If they know that their friends don’t do these risky things, they won’t do it themselves.’
For young adults in the study who attended a four-year college, living on campus increased their risk of riding with an impaired driver.
But those who did not attend college had a higher risk, and even more if they lived alone.
The survey asked: ‘How many times in the past 12 months did you ride with someone drinking alcohol?’
It also asked the same question, but focusing on marijuana and illicit drugs.
Lastly, the researchers asked who was driving in each instance, and more generally about their binge drinking or drug taking habits in the last 30 days.
Their results, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs on Monday, showed a penchant for drug-taking and drinking among teens, and a widespread nonchalant attitude towards driving risks.
The researchers said the findings show public health officials need to do more to communicate with young people.
But they also pointed the finger at parents.
‘Parents should be a role model by not driving while impaired, and real friends should stop their friends from driving after using substances – if using substances cannot be stopped.’