If parents consume alcohol, it is more likely that their children will drive under its influence. This is one of the conclusions of a new study analysing the data of more than 30,000 students and their relationship with drinking and driving. The results have been published in the "Adicciones" journal.
Campaigns of the Spanish General Traffic Directorate warn that drinking and driving are two incompatible activities. However, a high percentage of accidents in Spain continue to occur because the driver has consumed alcohol, as was revealed by the report issued in 2007 by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
Experts consider the problem to be even more pronounced if the drivers are teenagers. Thus, a new study led by researchers of the University of Zaragoza analyses the socioeconomic factors related to driving under the influence of alcohol in Spanish adolescents between 14 and 18 years of age.
"It is difficult to convince a teenager that they should not drink if they are driving a vehicle," explained José Julián Escario Gracia, researcher at the Aragonese institution and lead author of this study, published in the Adicciones journal.
The data, from 30,183 students who participated in the 2008 State Survey on Drug Use in Secondary Schools, showed that 6.7% of students surveyed had driven after drinking alcohol. "This percentage may seem low, but bearing in mind that the mean age of participants was 15.60 years of age and, therefore, that few had a driving license, this figure is considerable," added the researcher.
The work also highlights that if parents consume alcohol, it is more likely that their children will end up driving under the influence, which shows, in Escario's words, that prevention is also the responsibility of parents, since their behaviour influences their children. This risky behaviour is more common in boys than in girls and also in older adolescents.
We can conclude from the results that information campaigns on the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol work. "Some people have shown their scepticism regarding this matter, but in light of the work carried out, it seems that they do reduce the likelihood of adolescents driving drunk," the author said.
The expert maintains that, to be successful, these campaigns should focus more on male teenagers, older teenagers and those who do not study at Baccalaureate level, since they are the groups in which driving prevalence is highest. Likewise, if parents were included, better results could be obtained.
Maternal influence on consumption
"The percentage of teenagers who drive under the influence of alcohol is lower amongst those who live with their mothers," said Escario. "Perhaps the traditional role of the mother, characterised, amongst other features, by caring for their children, has an impact on this result."
In fact, other authors have found that maternal socialisation is related with low alcohol and tobacco consumption. Information campaigns in schools on the consequences of alcohol and other drugs reduce the likelihood of students driving under their influence.
This relationship was observed to a greater extent in males and young teenagers. "Furthermore, the result that relates being in a boarding school positively with a greater tendency to carry out this risky behaviour is curious," he said.
Adolescents and risky behaviour
Some previous studies indicate that there is a relationship between early alcohol consumption and the likelihood of suffering an alcohol-related accident at a later stage. In Spain, according to the State Survey on Drug Use in Secondary Schools (ESTUDES 2008), alcohol is the substance most consumed by teenagers.
"Hence, it would seem that, bearing in mind that it is not permitted to legally drive cars in Spain until 18 years of age, the incidence of accidents amongst teenagers due to driving should be low," according to Escario.
The author suggests that this could be the reason why few studies have analysed this behaviour, even though it is known that it is legal to drive mopeds from 15 years of age (before 2010, from 14 years of age) and motorbikes of 125 cm3 from 16 years of age.
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