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Study suggests teens learn to drink and drive by example

Legend has it that Rodgers and Hammerstein were pressured to take the song "You've Got to be Carefully Taught" out of the musical "South Pacific." The song was too controversial -- it is about racism -- and the backers were concerned that it would alienate audiences. As it turned out, the main lyric, if not the entire song, has become a part of the American lexicon.

We are bringing this up in a Dutchess County criminal defense blog because the lyric came to mind immediately when we read about a study of teenagers and drunk driving. The study, published recently in the journal Pediatrics, showed that exposing teens to driving while impaired increases the chances they, too, will drive while impaired. They have been carefully taught that driving drunk or drugged is A-OK.

The study is more than a moment-in-time snapshot of teen driving behaviors. At the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year, the researchers selected a sample group of about 2,500 10th-graders (using all the appropriate statistical methods that we will not get into here) and sent them surveys at the end of each of the next three years.

The survey asked about how often they had been a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone impaired by alcohol or drugs. The relationship to the driver was not part of the questionnaire, so it is unclear whether the driver was a parent, another adult or another teenager. The survey at the end of 12th grade included an additional question about the teens' own driving habits.

The results were surprising. We'll get into the particulars in our next post.

Source: USA Today, "Riding with impaired drivers increases teens' DWI risks," Michelle Healy, March 17, 2014

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