American teens are smoking less, drinking less and fighting less. But they're texting behind the whe
Teen Drivers Drinking Less, Texting More
Motor vehicle accidents still number one cause of teen death.
By Cole Petrochko, MedPage Today
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THURSDAY, June 7, 2012 (MedPage Today) —Although many areas of classic risky teen behavior have declined over the past 20 years, new technologies have introduced new risks to adolescent life, a CDC survey showed.
Risk factors associated with auto accident fatalities — which account for one in every three teen deaths annually — declined during the survey period from 1991 to 2011, including not wearing a seat belt and riding in a car with a driver who had been drinking, according to data released Thursday by the CDC.
However, in the first annual measure of technology-associated risks, data from the 2010-2011 survey showed one in three teens had sent a text or email while driving within 30 days of data collection, and one in six had been bullied online through electronic messaging or social media within 12 months of data collection, the CDC reported.
"The issue that we're highlighting is with new technologies," said Ruth Shults, PhD, of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, during a CDC press conference.
Survey data was collected through the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, which surveyed state and large urban school districts and included questions about health risk behaviors among young adults.
The data included responses from 43 states and 21 large urban school districts for more than 15,000 students grades 9 to 12 for the 2010-2011 school year. Results were measured against data from previous years' surveys.
From 1991 to 2011, there was a 70 percent drop in the number of students who rode without a seat belt (26 percent in 1991 versus 8 percent in 2011) and a 20 percent drop in the number of students who had ridden with a driver who had been drinking (40 percent versus 24 percent). Additionally, from 1997 to 2011, there was a 53 percent drop in the number of students who drove after drinking (17 percent versus 8 percent).
However, despite these improvements, motor vehicle accidents are "still the number one cause of death" among teens, said Howell Wechsler, EdD, MPH, of the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health and study co-author, during the press conference.
Shults added that distracted driving was one major risk to young drivers. The survey showed that nearly 33 percent of students had texted or sent an email while driving, despite 44 states having passed laws barring those practices for drivers, she said.
Early research has shown that there is no evidence laws reduce the risk of traffic accidents, she added.
Another health risk facing teens is cyberbullying. The survey found around 16 percent of students had been bullied through email, chat rooms, instant messaging, on websites, or via text messages, and that cyberbullying occurred most commonly among white females in 10th grade.
Shults recommended healthcare professionals consult teenage patients about the risks associated with texting while driving, and ask patients about cyberbullying.
One other area of surprising data was the change — or lack thereof — in smoking habits. From 2009 to 2011, there was nonsignificant drop in students' current cigarette use (19 percent versus 18 percent). During that same period of time, however, current marijuana use increased among teens from 21 percent to 23 percent, but was still down from a measure of marijuana use in 1999 (27 percent). Current marijuana use was more common than current cigarette use (23 percent versus 18 percent).
Video: American teens are smoking less, drinking less and fighting less. But they're texting behind the whe
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