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Rise in drink-drive youngsters
The West Australian File picture: The West Australian

A recent survey of young WA motorists has found a significant surge in the number who have chosen to drive after drinking alcohol.

And it appears they are learning the habit from their parents.

The RAC's annual free2go survey of 700 drivers aged between 17 and 19 found one in nine (11 per cent) had got behind the wheel after drinking. This compared with one in 20 (5 per cent) last year.

"That's a significant jump in the space of 12 months," RAC general manager corporate affairs Will Golsby said. "It is an alarming statistic.

"Complacency may be the issue, so it's important that we all play a part in reinforcing the messages around the dangers of drink driving."

Mr Golsby said the survey showed that parents were unknowingly passing on their dangerous driving habits to their children.

He said about one-quarter of all respondents said they had seen their parents drive after drinking alcohol.

This was especially concerning when it was considered that nearly three-quarters of the respondents indicated their parents were the biggest influence on their driving attitudes.

This finding supports recent statements by the Federal Department of Health and Ageing and the Australian Drug Foundation that parents can be powerful role models for teenagers and should try to set a good example of responsible driving.

Mr Golsby said the survey highlighted the disconnect between how young drivers think and how theybehave behind the wheel.

He said respondents listed drink-driving as the second-most dangerous behaviour after drug-driving, while at the same time acknowledging they were part of the problem.

"Young WA drivers are significantly overrepresented in road deaths," he said.

"Last year, 17-19 year olds made up 4 per cent of the WA population, yet amounted to 7 per cent of road fatalities."

Mr Golsby said an analysis of last year's crash statistics showed alcohol was the single biggest cause of death on WA roads last year.

"Alcohol played a significant role in almost a quarter of all WA road deaths last year," he said.

"We all have a role to play in keeping each other safe this Christmas.

"We are asking all drivers to check or adjust their behaviour while behind the wheel."