Fewer teens at risk

Accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers, and by lowering certain types of risky behavior, teens could significantly reduce fatalities and injuries resulting from accidents.

Thankfully, teens seem to be getting the message. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that a variety of risky teen behaviors reached record lows last year.

The survey of 14,000 ninth- to 12-graders indicated that teens are doing things today that will help them avoid accidents and stay healthy. For example, researchers saw sharp drops in drinking, marijuana use, drinking and driving or riding in a car with a driver who has been drinking, and failing to wear a seat belt. Teens also are smoking less and using condoms more than they did six years ago, according to the CDC's comparisons.

The survey, however, showed sharp differences in risky behaviors among blacks, whites and Hispanics. For blacks, the percentage of teens who engaged in risky behavior dropped sharply, although the percentages remained higher than those of whites.

The percentage of Hispanics engaging in a number of risky habits hardly dropped and remained high relative to both whites and blacks. Researchers said poverty, less-educated parents and overcrowded schools contribute to the problem, whichever ethnic group is involved.

Overall, this report is good news. Teens seem to be learning that many stupid bad habits are easy to avoid -- such as not buckling up or drinking and driving. Others, such as use of addictive drugs, bulimia, suicidal tendencies, are harder to overcome.

But this is progress. It indicates that teens are able to both identify risky behavior and to have enough self control to do something about it.

Fortunately, fewer teens are engaging in risky behaviors. But challenges remain.