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Recession, law enforcement cut into teens’ drunken driving

By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — Pricey gasoline is brutal on the wallet. But it may also be lifesaving for certain drivers — namely, penny-pinching teenagers who have scaled back on their drunken-driving habits.

The number of high school students who say they’ve gotten behind the wheel while drunk is down 54 percent from two decades ago, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last year, about one in 10 teens said they drove while intoxicated. In 1991, 22.3 percent said the same, according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Teen driving and drinking are both down over the period, according to the report, due in part to laws monitoring drinking age, retailer compliance checks and more.

But more recently, the recession has also been a major factor. Youth unemployment is high as teens looking for seasonal jobs began losing them to older and more qualified job-seekers.

Crunched for funds, high school students are less likely to blow their meager savings at the pump.

“Teens are especially sensitive to increases in gasoline prices and declines in economic conditions, which might have decreased their miles driven since 2007,” according to the report.

The study also found that of the teens who said they drove while inebriated, nearly 85 percent also engaged in binge drinking. Male students are more likely than female ones to drink and drive; whites and Latinos do so more often than blacks.

Only 4.6 percent of teens in Utah said they boozed before driving, while 14.5 percent of students in North Dakota said the same.

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