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FOR RELEASE: March 27, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Spring Prom Season Prompts “Don’t Drink and Drive”
Prevention Messages for Teens

With the end of the school year fast approaching, many teens and young adults are anticipating end-of-the-year proms, after parties and graduations. Meanwhile, concerned health officials, parents, teachers, counselors, and peers are trying to find ways to get across the message “Don’t drink and drive” to these young people.

“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the United States for persons aged 16 to 24 years. A substantial number of those fatal crashes are alcohol-related,” said State Adolescent Health Coordinator Marilyn Lanphier, Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

“Teen drivers have the highest crash risk of any age group. Immaturity, inexperience, and risk-taking behavior including speeding, not using seat belts, and alcohol consumption are all contributing factors for fatal crashes among teenagers,” Lanphier said.

Drinking alcohol leads to poor judgment, lack of coordination, slowed reflexes, distorted vision, memory lapses and even blackouts. Between 1998 and 2000, 15.2 percent of the impaired drivers involved in crashes in Oklahoma were between 16 and 20 years of age. According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, this comprised the second largest age group, following 21- to 25-year-olds, involved in crashes with an impaired driver.

Among the 16- to 20-year-old drivers in Oklahoma, 2.6 percent were involved in fatal crashes, while 36.1 percent were involved in serious injury crashes. The primary cause of crashes among this age group is driving under the influence of alcohol.

State health officials offer the following suggestions for helping young drivers stay safe by establishing restrictions and privileges.

  • Set time restrictions for beginning teenage drivers. Define the hours for daytime driving and restrict night driving.
  • Limit the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle for beginning drivers. Teen passengers in a vehicle can distract a beginning driver and lead to greater risk-taking.
  • Supervise practice driving. Parents can take an active role in helping their teenagers learn how to drive.
  • Require seat belt use at all times.
  • Prohibit driving after drinking. Make it clear that it is illegal and highly dangerous to drive after drinking alcohol.

According to the OSDH, some of the reasons that teens use alcohol and other drugs are because of curiosity, to feel good, to reduce stress and relax, to fit in, or to feel older. The average teen first tries alcohol around age 13.

“Parents can help prevent drunk driving among teens by focusing them on healthy, fun activities likes sports, hobbies, earning extra spending money, going to movies, dances or shopping,” Lanphier said.

For more information contact Marilyn Lanphier, OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service, Child and Adolescent Health Division, at 405/271-4471.

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