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If current trends continue, guns may soon surpass motor vehicles as the most frequent killers of teenagers and young adults, recent federal data suggest.

Between 1968 and 1991, the most recent year for which statistics were available, total U.S. deaths related to motor vehicles declined 21 percent, to 43,536, while firearm-related deaths jumped 60 percent, to 38,317.

Recent increases in firearm mortality across the population have been greatest among adolescents and young adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released the statistics late last month.

From 1988 through 1991, for those ages 15 to 24, the firearm death rate increased 40 percent, to 28.9 per 100,000 population, while the death rate from motor-vehicle accidents dropped 15 percent, to 32 per 100,000. During the same period, the overall firearm death rate rose 9 percent, and the overall motor-vehicle death ratedropped 14 percent.

In 1991, the firearm death rate for 15- to 24-year-olds was 10 percent lower than the motor-vehicle death rate. But for ages 25 to 34, the firearm death rate had outpaced that of motor-vehicle deaths by 4 percent.

Sex Education: Exposure to sexuality- and H.I.V.-education curricula does not lead teenagers to engage in sex at younger ages, according to a report released at a conference sponsored by a conservative think tank.

Looking at 23 studies of school-based sex-education programs, Doug Kirby, the research director for ETR Associates, a health-education publishing and research company, also found that sex education does not increase the frequency of intercourse or the number of sexual partners.

Mr. Kirby released the study last month at a conference of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. Copies are available from ETR Associates, P.O. Box 1830, Santa Cruz, Calif. 95061-1830.

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