THURSDAY, March 29, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- People whose friends are OK with drinking and driving are much more likely to drink and drive themselves, too, a U.S. study confirms.
The University of Michigan study of almost 3,500 young adults also found that people who believe there are only a few negative consequences of impaired driving -- arrest or license suspension, for example -- are more likely to engage in such dangerous behavior.
"To policy makers, I'd say, it's probably going to be worthwhile to try to change a person's network of friends, help them find friends who don't drink and drive, and avoid those who do. It's probably harder than some interventions but worth it," study author and associate professor Raymond Bingham said in a prepared statement.
He said efforts to modify these two factors -- social support for drinking and the belief that there are few consequences for impaired driving -- could have a significant impact.
"If we reduce both of those risk factors by 50 percent, then we can expect the drinking/driving rate for women to go down by as much as 56 percent," and by as much as 33 percent for men, Bingham said.
Increased law enforcement -- such as sobriety checkpoints -- and aggressive publicity can help change behaviors and beliefs about drinking and driving, transportation safety researcher Kenneth Beck, a professor of public and community health at the University of Maryland, said in a prepared statement. He was not involved in the study.
The findings are published in the April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about impaired driving.