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Higher minimum drinking ages, increased educational efforts, and stricter laws have led to a decline in the number of alcohol-related automobile accidents among young people, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports.

According to the cdc, 1,030 young people between the ages of 15 and 17 died in alcohol-related crashes in 1989, down from both the 1,240 deaths the previous year and the 1,557 recorded for this age group in 1982.

Among the 15- to 17-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 1989, 19 percent had been drinking, the cdc reports. In 1988, 22.4 percent of these drivers had been drinking, down from the 31.5 percent who had been drinking in 1982.

One factor that may have affected the lower rates of fatal alcohol-related accidents and impaired driving among young people since 1982 was the increase in the minimum drinking age to 21 in every state by 1988, the cdc said. Other reasons include additional anti-alcohol education programs and stiffer penalties for young, impaired drivers, the cdc reported.

In the broadest testing program of its kind in the country, all babies born in Georgia later this year will be tested for the presence of cocaine in their blood at birth.

Under a cooperative agreement between the North Georgia chapter of the March of Dimes, the cdc, and the state's department of human resources, all newborns will be tested anonymously for about six months, said Paula Dritt, a spokesman for the March of Dimes.

It is thought that as many as 400,000 babies born yearly nationwide are perinatally exposed to cocaine. This exposure has been linked to a host of physical and developmental problems.

Ms. Dritt said all babies in the state are already required, by state law, to be tested for several medical conditions at birth. Part of this blood sample will then be tested anonymously for cocaine.

She said the test can determine if the mother has used the drug up to about four or five days before delivery, but cannot pinpoint long-term use.

Poor children under the age of 6 are more likely to have health problems than are their more financially secure peers, a Yale researcher concludes in a new monograph.

In the report, "Alive and Well?," Lorraine V. Klerman recommends that Head Start and several federal nutrition programs be made entitlement programs, and calls for a universal health-care system.

Copies are available for $11.95 each from the National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University, 154 Haven Ave., New York, N.Y. 10032.--ef

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