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Risky, alcohol-related vehicular behaviors increase significantly by age 21

For male students with driving opportunity, more than one in four reported having driven drunk by age 21, up from one in five at the age of 19. Significant age-related increases were also noted for driving after having at least one drink and riding with an intoxicated driver.

While increases in all three behaviors were significantly higher for male than female students, the data confirm serious public safety issues regardless of gender, raising questions as to the adequacy of existing enforcement and on-campus prevention and intervention strategies. The findings also raise issues about lowering the legal drinking age as some have advocated.
 
"This study confirms previous findings that drunk driving is a serious problem among college students," said Amelia Arria, Ph.D., Principal Investigator for the College Life Study. "By tracking this and other forms of risky, alcohol-related vehicular behaviors over time, our findings introduce new areas of concern, namely, that rather than subsiding, the problem escalates as college students get older," she said.
 
Arria is the Director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and a Senior Scientist at the Philadelphia-based Treatment Research Institute. The College Life Study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and is one of the few ongoing studies tracking changes in health-related behaviors over time in a large sample of college students.
 
"As we learn more about this serious public health problem, we must ask whether existing DWI laws are being adequately enforced on or near college campuses and whether there is enough focus on early interventions for individuals at high-risk for alcohol-related problems," Arria said.
 
She added that the study adds to previous evidence linking increased availability of alcohol at 21 to increased prevalence and frequency of alcohol-related traffic risk behaviors.
 
The study will appear in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research and is now available online. Statistics showing risky behaviors by male/female students are available in the full paper and in the Research Brief that accompanies it.

Written by: Lisa Callaham
Posted: Jun 11, 2010 by Lisa Callaham

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