TUESDAY, Dec. 6, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Teens whose parents drink and drive are much more likely to do so themselves, a new U.S. government study finds.
The research, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), suggests that parents' behavior behind the wheel has a very strong influence on teenagers.
The study was based on national survey data of roughly 67,500 people aged 12 and older. The SAMHSA researchers found that more than 18 percent of 16- and 17-year olds living with a mother who drove under the influence of drugs or alcohol had also driven under the influence. In contrast, only about 11 percent of teens living with a mother who didn't drive after drinking engaged in this risky behavior.
Fathers may even wield a greater influence. The study, published online Dec. 6, found that 21.4 percent of teens living with fathers who drove under the influence also drove after drinking or doing drugs, compared to just 8.4 percent of teens whose fathers didn't drink and drive.
"Parents play a key role in preventing drunk and drugged driving, beginning with setting a good example," SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde said in an agency news release. "Parents who drink, or drug, and drive not only put their lives and the lives of others at immediate risk, but increase the likelihood that their children will follow down this destructive path."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on teen drivers.