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Underage drinking and driving depends on friends' actions

Most of us have heard the old adage, "Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas." Is there any truth to the idea that people adopt the bad habits of those in their immediate vicinity? National statistics show that the principle may hold true in at least one situation: Teens in Michigan and other states are far more likely to participate in underage drinking and driving if they have ridden with someone else who has engaged in the same behavior.

Teens who are exposed to other drunk drivers are far more likely to face potential OWI charges themselves. Further, the new study shows that teen drivers who receive their licenses earlier in their school career -- as freshmen or sophomores -- are also more likely to get behind the wheel while intoxicated by the time they are seniors. The government-funded study followed a sample of high-school students who were 10th-graders in 2009 and 2010.

Experts say that driving during the teen years is often considered a "socially mediated" activity that can cause children to normalize the idea of underage drunk driving. Seeing another person "successfully" drive drunk can make the practice seem like an understandable, everyday activity. Those who are licensed early may also be more likely to take risks than those who wait until they are older.

Teens who are accused of OUI offenses may face serious penalties including fines and license suspensions. It is important to consider protecting your future not only while behind the wheel, but also while navigating the criminal courts after an OWI charge. A Michigan criminal defense attorney may be able to provide additional information and advice for teens who are accused of driving while intoxicated.

Source: Great Falls Tribune, "Riding with impaired drivers increases teens' DWI risks" Michelle Healy, USA Today, Mar. 17, 2014

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