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Shifts in teen behavior could reduce drunk driving crashes

Since the dawn of time, older people have bemoaned younger generations. They're irresponsible and reckless, the older folks will complain, and simply not up to the standards set by their elders. That time-honored tradition might not be passed on if results from a new study are accurate.

The research published in the journal Child Development indicates that the percentage of U.S. adolescents who drive and who drink alcohol has been on the decline since 1976, with the biggest decreases coming in the past decade. The study might well be cause for celebrating the dawn of a new era in which fewer people drive drunk and cause motor vehicle accidents.

The study also indicates that fewer teens are interested in dating in high school, choosing instead to delay what has long been considered a rite of passage. The declines in drinking, driving and dating are found in urban, suburban and rural areas and across geographic, racial and socioeconomic lines as well.

The study shows that back in 1979, 86 percent of high school seniors had gone on a date. The percentage today is down to 63 percent. Perhaps more interesting is that the percentage of seniors who have tried alcohol has plummeted from 93 percent to 67 percent today.

The lead author of the study says it's not that teens today are more boring or lazy -- or even more responsible -- but that the environment that they're growing up in doesn't demand that they experiment as much with dating, drinking or driving. The researcher said more hectic environments \produce youth compelled to experiment so that they can develop coping skills.

Whatever the reason for the shifts in behavior, we expect that many Charlotte parents and drivers hail the changes.

Hopefully, fewer of us will have reason in coming days to consider personal injury litigation stemming from car accidents.

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