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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Alcohol Related Traffic Risk Behavior

College drinking makes the news, again, this time with new statistics and a grim prognosis. In the last few months we have covered college drinking several times, drinking is a major concern among parents whose children are in college or are getting ready to head off to college. Reports are showing that more colleges' students are more comfortable getting in the car with a driver who has been drinking than in recent years; studies have also shown that approximately 25 percent of college students have driven while intoxicated in the past month. If college freshman are making poor decisions like that, what will happen when they turn 21.

A new study, which focuses on how drinking behaviors will evolve, shows that as students make their way through college they are more likely to be involved in risky behavior like driving under the influence; "alcohol-related traffic-risk behaviors took a significant upturn when students turned 21 years old", according to Medical News Today. Statistics like these do not give anyone a warm feeling, especially when one considers that it may be their child drinking and driving right through college. Amelia M. Arria, director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and corresponding author for the study said: "College students have limited driving experience, making drinking and driving possibly even more hazardous. [While] other studies have examined drinking and driving among college students, to our knowledge this is the first to have examined how the behavior changes over time in the same sample of students".

The study recruited 1,253 first-time, first-year students (645 females, 608 males) attending a large, mid-Atlantic university who agreed to have the alcohol consumption and behavior regarding alcohol tracked over their college career. The study examined three different aspects of alcohol-related traffic risk behavior: riding with a driver who was under the influence of alcohol (RWID), driving after drinking any alcohol (DAD), and driving while intoxicated (DWI).

Here are the facts on 20 year olds:

  • eight percent drove after drinking any alcohol
  • 20 percent drove while intoxicated
  • regardless of car access - 43 percent rode with an intoxicated driver

"There were noticeable increases in all three measures of alcohol-related traffic risk - RWID, DWI and DAD - when students reached the legal drinking age of 21," said Arria.

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