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Teens Copy Friends who Drink and Drive, Study Reports

Update Date: Mar 17, 2014 03:11 PM EDT

The type of friends people have can greatly influence behaviors. According to a new study, teenagers, who tend to be vulnerable to peer pressure, have an increased risk of driving while intoxicated if they have friends who do it.

"It shouldn't be a surprise that you're more likely to drink and drive if you've been around others who drink and drive and you ride with them," researcher Bruce Simons-Morton from the United States National Institute of Child Health and Human Development said, according to Medical Xpress. "But it's just wildly associated with the risk of driving while intoxicated."

In this study, the researchers examined numerous surveys conducted on over 1,000 teenagers between the 10th and 12th grades. The surveys started in 2009. The researchers found that 12 to 14 percent of the teenagers stated that they had driven after drinking or taking another type of drug at least once within the past month. Another 23 to 38 percent of high school students reported sitting in the car with an intoxicated driver within the past year.

The researchers found that people who reported sitting in a car with a drunk driver were more likely to drive drunk by the time they reached their senior year of high school. Aside from the influence of having friends who drive while intoxicated, the researchers also found that teenagers who got their licenses faster were more likely to drive under the influence.

"If you're in a peer group where driving while intoxicated is acceptable, then you're going to be exposed to it. Having that kind of experience is socializing. It makes it OK." Simons-Morton said. "Part of that is just exposure. They've been driving more, so their opportunity for driving while intoxicated is greater."

The researchers stated that delaying licenses for teenagers could help reduce teenagers' likelihood of driving under the influence. Since this method might not be easily implemented, the team stressed the importance of parental supervision. The researchers stated that parents who allow their teenagers to drive must set clear boundaries and rules that need to be followed behind the wheel.

The study was published in Pediatrics.

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