drinking down, but still too high
By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
Whenever statistics are presented, there are many different ways to
view them. That is true of a recent study published in the American
Journal of Public Health. The study looked at drinking and driving
among high schools seniors. The results were both encouraging and
The encouraging part was that the statistics have improved since 1984.
In 1984, 69.6 percent of seniors reported drinking alcohol in the
last 30 days. In 1997, 50.3 percent of seniors reported drinking alcohol
in the last 30 days.
In 1984, 41.3 percent of seniors reported having five or more drinks
at one time (heavy drinking). In 1997 that number was 33.2 percent.
In 1984, 31.2 percent of senior reported drinking and driving. In
1997, the number was 18.3 percent.
In 1984, 44.2 percent of seniors reported riding with a drinking driver.
In 1997, that number was 26.1 percent.
In the last 15 years there has been improvement in all four areas.
Another encouraging thing is that the statistics for drinking and
driving have dropped more than the statistics for drinking in general.
That suggests that at least a portion of the adolescent population
is getting the message about drinking and driving.
One discouraging thing about the statistics is that the numbers seemed
to have leveled off between 1994 and 1997. In some of the areas, they
have actually climbed in that period. It suggests that the current
generation of teenagers did not get the message as strongly as the
last generation. Therefore, we must continue to pay attention to this
area. We cannot become complacent.
Education in this area begins at home. It begins when the child is
old enough to learn about driving. That is usually long before they
ever reach the age when they begin to drive. It also requires parents
to set the example for responsible behavior.
The other discouraging fact is that the numbers still remain much
higher than we would like to see them. That is especially true with
those related to riding in cars. It is disturbing that almost one
out of five seniors drives while drinking and that one out of four
seniors rides with someone who has been drinking.
The study looked at things that might be associated with this type
of behavior. They found that there are factors associated with this
type of behavior. Some of those are more easily controlled than others.
Some are not surprises. Use of illegal drugs and school truancy were
associated with both drinking and driving and riding with a driver
who had been drinking. These were the two strongest predictors.
Males were more likely to drink and drive than females. However, there
was no gender difference for riding with a driver who had been drinking.
Other factors are a little more surprising. One that is very important
for Sussex County is that rural residence increased the likelihood
of both drinking and driving and riding with a driver who had been
drinking. That puts our adolescents at a higher risk than many other
parts of the country.
surprise was that miles driven per week was as strong a predictor
of drinking and driving as was truancy and drug use. It may be that
the individual who has driven more miles has a false sense of security
about his/her ability to drive while drunk.
Individuals who were less religious and those with the most evenings
out per week were more likely to drink and drive as well as ride with
someone who had been drinking.
Miles driven and evenings out per week can be addressed by enforcing
a reasonable curfew when the car is used. For drivers between the
ages of 15 and 18, this usually means somewhere between 10 p.m. and
There are only a few exceptions (proms, etc.) for adolescents under
18 to be out driving a car on a regular basis after midnight.
The last factor was that individuals from Hispanic background were
more likely to ride with someone who had been drinking. This was not
a significant factor for drinking and driving. It was only true for
being a passenger.
Of interest is the fact that parental level of education had nothing
to do with behavior in these two areas. Well-educated parents fared
no better than anyone else in the type of behavior that their children
We have certainly come a long way since 1984 in dealing with a serious
problem. At that time one out of every 2000 adolescents died in an
auto accident. For most of our high schools in this area, that amounts
to about one death every four years.
The result would be that just about every high school student would
have to deal with this kind of loss about once in his/her four years
in high schools. Even once is one time too many for our teenagers.
The statistics show that we have made great strides. They also show
that there are some risk factors that we can address. As parents we
need to set the example and keep our children from becoming a fatal
NHS auxiliary meets Sept. 8
The regular meeting of the Nanticoke Health Services Auxiliary will
be Wednesday, Sept. 8. This will be a luncheon at RJ Riverside in
Laurel. Cost is $6.95 and reservations are a must. Lunch will be at
11 a.m., followed by the auxiliary meeting at noon. Guest speaker
will be Jean Baldwin, Y2K coordinator at the hospital. Baldwin will
talk about Nanticoke's efforts to prepare for Y2K and what you can
do to prepare yourself. Reservations are a must.
Coping with loss program
Delaware Technical & Community College, Owens Campus, is offering
"Beginning Experience: Coping," a non-denominational, male-female
support group created to provide a confidential, caring atmosphere
for those who are suffering from relationship losses such as divorce,
separation, or widowhood.
An emphasis on life visions, rediscovering self, and building self-esteem
can help you work through and deal with different states of grief.
This six-session program meets Mondays, Sept. 20-Oct. 25 or Nov. 15-Dec.
13, 7-9 p.m. For additional information on location and fees call
facilitator Margaret Nixon at (302) 629-4735.