The annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey results were released this week by the Montana Office of Public Instruction, and high school students are improving in most areas, while falling behind in others.

Susan Court is the state coordinator for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

She said one day each year high school students are asked to fill out an anonymous survey in the last week of February, and when the surveys, done with old-fashioned pencil and paper, are then sealed and sent to the OPI for tabulation.

In 2017, Court said some significant improvements have been seen over the 2015 survey.

"We've seen some very good improvements in kids not using tobacco, we've seen decreases in smokeless tobacco," Court said. "We've some drastic reductions over the past 20 years in the amount of alcohol use and binge drinking by high school students. We used to lead the nation in those categories, but we do not anymore."

Court says there are some alarming numbers to report, though.

"We are near the top of the nation in the number of students who are texting and driving," she said. "In 2015 we were near the top in e-cigarette use. There was a slight decrease in 2017, so we're very interested to see if we can get away from being first in the country in that category."

Even though the tests are only designed for high school students, Court said administrators asked that middle school students also be tested, to see if those dangerous behaviors can be spotted early.

"Because of that, we also do the survey with seventh and eighth grade students," she said. It's a little different survey and much more age-appropriate to their needs," she said. "But, a lot of the data can be followed starting in sevenths and eighth grades all the way through high school."

The survey is also conducted through the auspices of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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