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We all know that teens are easily influenced by their peers. If you have raised a teenager, you know that they often dress the same, talk the same and even walk the same as their friends. According to a new study, teens may even choose to drink and drive if their friends have done so in the past.

The study, which was published online in the journal Pediatrics earlier this month, found that teens were much more likely to have driven under the influence of alcohol or drugs if they had been a passenger in a vehicle driven by an impaired driver in the past.

The study determined that the more frequently and earlier a teen was exposed as a passenger to impaired driving, the greater the likelihood that the teen would also engage in similar behavior.

The national survey involved a group of approximately 2,500 teens who were in 10th grade during the 2009-2010 school year. The researchers followed the group for two years, or through 12th grade.

"When you experience (riding with an impaired driver), it's a normalizing experience. It sort of suggests that that's just how people do it, so it's OK when (you) start driving to drive while intoxicate," a senior investigator on the study explained.

Interestingly, the researchers did not ask the teens whether they were passengers with parents or friends who had been impaired while driving, though many studies in the past have suggested that drunk driving among teens is "socially mediated,” the senior investigator said.

In addition to that finding, the study suggested that teens were also more likely to have driven under the influence of alcohol or drugs if they had received their driver’s licenses at a younger age, though this relationship wasn’t as strong.

No matter what causes teens to drive drunk, the consequences can be very serious. When a teenager is accused of drunk driving or underage drinking, it’s important to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer for guidance right away.

Source: USA Today, “Riding with impaired drivers increases teens' DUI risks,” Michelle Healy, Mar. 17, 2014

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