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Many Unlicensed Teen Drivers Put Safety Last
Date:11/3/2008

Driving drunk, skipping seatbelts more common for adolescents illegally at the wheel, study finds,,,,

MONDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) -- As if the thought of teenagers driving before they've gotten their license isn't scary enough, a new study finds these same kids are also more likely to drive while drinking or on drugs, and more apt to not buckle up when they get behind the wheel.

Reporting in the November issue of Pediatrics, researchers found that about one in every 25 U.S. unlicensed teens drives at least one hour per week.

"These kids are getting out without supervision and putting themselves and others on the road at risk," said study senior author Dr. Flaura Winston, co-director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"Accidents are the number one cause of death in 14-to-17-year-olds," she said. "We need to start thinking about driving as a health behavior, and we need to change the dialogue about unlicensed teen drivers. People need to understand it's not funny and it's not cute."

More than one-third of teen-aged deaths are the result of motor vehicle collisions, according to background information in the study. Previous research has suggested that unlicensed drivers have a significantly greater risk of being involved in a motor vehicle collision.

To assess which children might be most at risk of driving without a license, Winston and her colleagues reviewed data from a nationally representative sample that included almost 5,700 9th- through 11th-graders who participated in the National Young Driver Survey.

In total, 4.2 percent of these teens reported at least some unlicensed driving. Teens who reported unlicensed driving were more likely to drink, with 51 percent reporting having had a drink in the past month. Unlicensed drivers were twice as likely as licensed teens to "sometimes" use alcohol or drugs while driving.
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