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Shocking Teen DUI Statistics

Substance abuse has become a national epidemic, especially among teens. Portrayals in the media and in films show teens partying and having fun with friends and peers; unfortunately, that fun has deadly consequences far too often in real life. There are many studies and statistics available that show just how tragically widespread teenage substance abuse has become, which can often lead to intoxicated teens behind the wheel. Here are some rather alarming facts and figures.

Teen Substance Abuse: One of the Top Killers of Youths Today

According to statistics from the United States Department of Justice and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, substance abuse among teens is one of the top killers of young people today. In fact, almost half of all high school sophomores admit to drinking alcohol regularly. Although there are a variety of dangerous drugs sweeping the nation, studies show that alcohol kills 6.5 times more underage youths than all other illicit substances combined. For those age 6 to 33 years old, traffic crashes are the number one leading cause of death and between 45% and half of those incidents are related to alcohol intoxication.

Although marijuana has a reputation for being a gateway drug, studies have shown that drinking alcohol makes a youth 50 times more likely to abuse cocaine. Perhaps even more alarming is how teens are gaining access to alcohol and drugs; according to research, about 64% of teens age 12 to 17 who have admitted to prescription drug abuse either received the drug(s) from friends and relatives or found the substances in their own home. Many adults will keep alcohol -- such as beer and wine -- on hand regularly, which makes them accessible to their children if the alcohol is not kept in a locked liquor or wine cabinet. Research suggests that it's far too easy for youths to gain access to mind-altering substances that they should not be consuming.

Teens Are the Most At-Risk for Automobile Accidents

Even when not driving while under the influence, teens are the most vulnerable and are at the most risk of any age group for auto accidents. Despite being a smaller and narrower group, studies show that teens are at a much higher risk for DUI and DUI-related accidents than those ages 21 and older. Teens ages 16 to 20 have less experience, which causes them to take greater risks more frequently with much less caution than someone older with more experience. Each year, an average of 10,000 people die in traffic accidents; half of those deaths will be young men and women under the age of 21.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 380 fatal alcohol-related car accidents -- in which one or more teens were in each vehicle -- during the months of April, May, and June in 2007, which was attributed to it being prom and graduation season. Of the 5,700 teens who died in auto accidents in the year 2008, 17% were legally drunk with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or higher. In 2011, teens ages 16 to 19 accounted for almost 20% of all deaths related to automobile accidents, most of which could have been avoided. Over the course of 2012, 239 child passengers under the age of 15 died in alcohol-related accidents; of those, over half of those children were being driven by an intoxicated driver.

Parental intervention is one of the most effective ways to prevent teenage DUI. Parents who discuss substances abuse and DUI with their teens and who make themselves available as resources to their teens for such topics have teens who are half as likely to be in alcohol-related traffic incidents. Unfortunately, only about a quarter of teens report having these conversations with their parents.

More than 3,000 Teens Die in Alcohol-Related Auto Accidents Each Year

It is more important than ever to discourage teens from substance abuse and driving under the influence. The sheer number of annual teenage fatalities related to driving while intoxicated is alarmingly high. Research indicates that each year, more than 3,000 teens die in alcohol-related automobile accidents. If a teen is found guilty of DUI, the consequences are typically greater than they would be for someone age 21 or older due to most states having zero-tolerance laws regarding blood-alcohol levels in licensed minors. In some cases, a conviction of a DUI can result in a teen serving up to a year in jail, probation for 3 to 5 years, temporary loss of driver's license, a fine, and the completion of an alcohol or DUI education program. A DUI conviction will also result in a teen having a criminal record, which can affect college admissions and job applications. There are many resources available regarding the legal penalties teens could face if convicted of a DUI while underage.

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