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Teens: Drinking and driving

‘Vital Signs’ report shows a decrease in teen drinking/driving

PRINCETON — Though the number of teens who drink and drive may be decreasing, there is still more work to be done in educating teens and their families on the dangers of drinking and driving, according to Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson.

On Oct. 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released its “Vital Signs” report stating drunk driving among U.S. teens has fallen 54 percent in the past two decades.

According to the report, 10 percent of high school students reported drinking and driving in 2011, compared with 22 percent in 1991. Young people ages 16 to 20 years of age are 17 times more likely to die in a crash when their blood alcohol is at least .08 percent, compared to when they had not been drinking.

On Monday, Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said he thinks the local experience would support the national statistics.

As far as reasons for the trend of fewer teens drinking and driving, Thompson said there has been a definite outreach to educate children, teens and their families on the dangers of not just drinking, but also drinking and driving. Those programs are helping, he said.

In giving a couple examples, Thompson said the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program has been a part of Bureau County schools for years and targets elementary-age children, who will hopefully remember the D.A.R.E. message as they enter their teen years. Also, the Community Partners Against Substance Abuse (CPASA) coalition is an active group which sponsors several substance abuse awareness and prevention programs for area schools and communities.

But another instrumental factor in the better numbers on teen drinking and driving has to be increased parental involvement and intervention, Thompson said, adding parents are becoming more aware of the problem of teen drinking and are becoming more supportive and involved in programs to stop teen drinking.

Though the current numbers are favorable, Bureau County did struggle this summer with several traffic fatalities, some of which involved alcohol, Thompson said. There is still more to be done, more people to be reached, he said.

Data for the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report is based upon the Youth Risk Behaviors Surveys. Looking at specific information, the report states male students were more likely to drink and drive than females. High school boys, ages 18 and older, were the most likely to drive after consuming alcohol. Sixteen-year old high school girls were the least likely to drink and drive.

Looking specifically at teens in Bureau and Putnam counties, the CPASA coalition conducted an Illinois Youth Survey earlier this year among area young people to look at a variety of teen issues, including drug and alcohol use. The survey results showed substance abuse continues to be a major health problem in Bureau and Putnam counties, though there has been an improvement, according to CPASA Chairman Dawn Conerton.

For instance, 54 percent of 12th-graders in Bureau and Putnam counties used alcohol in 2008, compared to 50 percent in 2010. However, while there was a decrease from 2008 to 2010 in the number of youth using alcohol, the number is still higher than the rest of the state, which was at 44 percent.

As reported earlier in the Bureau County Republican, the recent Illinois Youth Survey statistics may show fewer young people are drinking alcohol and more youth are avoiding binge drinking, but there is always another young person, another family to reach out to help them live healthier and safer lives, Conerton said.

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