A Hazardous Combination: Teen Drinking & Driving
Drinking and driving is never a good idea for anyone; the two just do not mix. Not only can drinking and driving put the person doing the drinking and driving at risk, but other motorists on the road as well as pedestrians can also be in grave danger when a person is drinking and driving in their vicinity. The danger is only heightened when the person doing the drinking and driving is a teenager – someone who is most likely a relatively inexperienced driver and similarly a stranger to the personal effects of alcohol. Alcohol can produce delayed reaction times, impaired judgment, blurry vision, and other dangerous side effects. Compared to more experienced drivers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that teen drivers are three times more likely to be in a fatal crash, and the consumption of alcohol significantly increases this risk for teen drivers.
Despite the innumerable and widely known dangers of teens and alcohol, many teenagers drink and drive anyway. According to the CDC, 1 out of every 10 teens in high school drinks and drives. The CDC also stated that nearly 1 million high school teens drank alcohol and got behind the wheel in 2011. Some teens drink and drive because of peer pressure or as an act of rebellion. Some do it in order to look cool in front of their friends while others drink and drive because they just want to fit in.
While laws and their corresponding punishments for breaking them can act as a deterrent for some teenagers, many will still drink and drive. If you are the parent of a teen that drinks and drives, you may feel as if there is nothing that you can say or do to stop them, or maybe you are just unaware of what to do in such a situation. On the other hand, you may have a child who does not drink and drive, but you want to make sure you know what to say and do so he or she never drinks while behind the wheel or rides with someone who is drinking while driving. Whatever your situation may be, being proactive is always a positive first step.
The Power of a Parent
Drinking and driving can put your child’s safety in great jeopardy, but knowing what you can do to keep your teen safe can make all the difference in the world. Here are a few tips.
- Set an example for your teenager when you are driving by demonstrating safe driving behavior.
- Inform your teen of the dangers of drinking and driving.
- Let your teenager know that them getting home safely is the top priority, so tell them to call you if they are in a situation where they are unable to drive or riding with someone who is drinking and driving. Inform them that you can either pick them up or pay for them to take a cab home.
- Form a parent-teen driving agreement in which safe driving habits are enforced by you and compliance is rewarded. Ultimately, you can make the agreement work however you wish, but positive reinforcement, consistency with enforcement, and fairness have shown in many instances to yield the desired results.
Organizations Dedicated to Preventing Teenage Drunk Driving
Parents should know they are not alone in the quest to protect children and teens. Schools play a large role in educating teenagers, as do mentors like coaches and instructors. For additional help, national organizations can serve as a resource. These groups include MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving), SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), and SMART Recovery. Many of these groups have local chapters that aim to make a difference at the community level.
At the end of the day, your teen’s safety is what matters the most, so keep these tips and organizations in mind when tackling topics like teen drinking and driving.