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Teen drinking: numbers less, but still a car accident threat

The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among teens between 16 and 19 years of age than for any other driving group. Teens driving with other teenagers in the car, males and newly licensed teen drivers are the most at risk. Driving drunk, however, is a very relevant factor in car accidents as well. At any blood alcohol level, the likelihood of a teen driver being involved in a car crash is greater than for any older driver.

New Hampshire has a zero tolerance law for teens. In other words, it is illegal for anyone under age 21 to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in his or her system. Because of this and other related measures, the number of teens in high school who drink and drive has decreased by 54 percent across the country. However, this still means one out of every 10 high school students drinks and drives. Statistics show drivers aged 16 to 20 are 17 times more likely to die in a crash when they have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent. One in five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes tested positive for some alcohol in 2010. Of these, 81 percent had levels higher than the legal limit for adults.

Roads in New Hampshire are similarly dangerous to most other states: 10.5 percent of high school students 16 years of age and older reportedly drink and drive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey providing these statistics was done in 2011.

Teen motor vehicle accidents are preventable. Parental involvement, enforcing minimum drinking ages and graduated licensing systems are integral parts of thus far successful efforts to protect the lives of our young people and those who share the roads with them. Car accident victims are entitled to seek compensation through legal action. When an at-fault driver is a teenager, it can be an emotionally trying undertaking, and professional support that is sensitive to the turmoil, but supportive of a victim's and family's need to recover, is important.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Vital Signs, Teen Drinking and Driving" accessed Mar. 04, 2015

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