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Trust girls more behind the wheel? Not so fast

Don't be so quick to toss your teenage daughter the keys to the car. A study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs reveals that the gender gap is closing when it comes to underage drinking and driving.

The study compared the accident rates of impaired teenage drivers from 1996 to 2007. Sixteen years ago, guys were four times more likely than girls to be in a fatal accident while impaired. By 2007, they were making equally bad decisions – both male and female teens with a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.1 per cent were 80 times more likely to get in an accident than their sober peers. That's the kind of gender equality that gives moms and dads even more grey hair – and more years as the designated driver on weekends.

And while parents may just be waking up to the fact that little girls can be made of sugar, spice and a six-pack, insurance companies in the United States have already begun taking a closer look at younger female drivers. According to industry estimates, premiums for teenage boys are about 25 per cent more than those for girls, while two decades ago boys paid about twice as much as girls.

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But it's not just alcohol that makes a teenage girl a potential hellion on wheels – the combination of iPhones and lip gloss is also a recipe for trouble. Another study, this one from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, found that teen girls are twice as likely as boys to talk on cellphones, text or groom themselves while driving.

"Boys have earned a reputation as being more dangerous behind the wheel," Stephen Wallace, a senior adviser at Students Against Destructive Decisions, told U.S. News & Reports.

"Anecdotally, parents may be paying more attention to boys' driving behaviour than girls' driving behaviour, so girls might be losing out on some of that [safe driving]training."

Do teenage girl drivers now worry you as much as teen boys behind the wheel?

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About the Author

Shelley Youngblut is the Western Editor of The Globe and Mail (and the mother of identical twins). The former editor of Calgary’s award-winning Swerve magazine, she is a veteran of ESPN the Magazine, and has commented on pop culture on ABC, CTV and CBC Radio. More

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