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Alcohol and driving distractions major causes of fatal crashes

It's probably no surprise to Mt. Laurel readers that underage drinkers are far more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than sober drivers in the same age group. A recent study published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs emphasizes the fact that age, alcohol and driving distractions play a significant role in fatal car accidents on the road. Is there a need for drunk driving and distracted driving prevention programs in New Jersey schools? The results of recent studies suggest so.

In 1996, young men had a higher risk of being involved in fatal crashes than young women, whether the young males had alcohol in their systems or not. But a recent study found that the gender gap has closed. By 2007, young women were just as likely to be involved in fatal crashes as young men. Although researchers don't know exactly why, the findings show that young women are taking greater risks on the road and their behavior when drinking is similar to that of young men who drink and drive.

The results are based on information from a government reporting system on fatal traffic accidents nationwide. Blood-alcohol information from almost 6,900 fatal crashes in 2006 was compared with information from about 6,800 U.S. drivers who took part in a 2007 U.S. National Roadside Survey.

Aside from statistics on underage drinking and driving, another statistic is particularly concerning. According to the co-author of the driving study, the risk of a sober, 16-year-old male being involved in a fatal car accident doubled between 1996 and 2007. Researchers believe this is due to texting and other new technologies that young people are using. These studies are important in determining the kind of educational programs New Jersey schools could implement to keep the roads safer for everyone.

Source: Science Codex, "Young women at growing risk of drunk-driving crashes," April 3, 2012

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