Getting a driver’s license and gaining independence is a cause for celebration among teens, but it’s also a major cause for concern for many parents. The number of drunk driving accidents among teens is a nation-wide tragedy. Many parents and mentors might be wondering how to approach the subject with teens, so we’ve gathered some expert tips.
Teens, in general, are always more at risk of car accidents. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash. The main reason for this tragic statistic is that teens lack experience handling a car and understanding roadway conditions. All of these factors are heightened to even more tragic levels when alcohol is involved.
Tragic Teen Drunk Driving Facts
- According to the CDC, one in 10 teens in high school drinks and drives.
- Young drivers (ages 16-20) are 17 times more likely to die in a crash when they have a blood alcohol concentration of .08% than when they have not been drinking.
- Teen drivers are 3 times more likely than more experienced drivers to be in a fatal crash. Drinking any amount of alcohol greatly increases this risk for teens.
- High school teens drive after drinking about 2.4 million times a month.
- 85% of teens in high school who report drinking and driving in the past month also say they binge drank (had 5 or more alcoholic drinks within a couple of hours).
- 1 in 5 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had some alcohol in their system in 2010. Most of these drivers (81%) had BACs higher than the legal limit for adults.
How to Help Prevent Teen Drunk Driving
Teenage drunk driving is a serious problem in the United States, but there are solutions. According to the CDC, research-proven solutions include:
- Minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) laws in every state that make it illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under age 21.
- Zero tolerance laws in every state make it illegal for those under age 21 to drive after drinking any alcohol.
- Graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems help new drivers get more experience under less risky conditions. As teens move through stages, they gain privileges, such as driving at night or driving with passengers.
- Parental involvement, with a focus on monitoring and restricting what new drivers are allowed to do.
Tips for Parents to Help Decrease Teen Drunk Driving:
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), car crashes are the leading cause of teen death, and one-quarter of those crashes involve an underage drinking driver. Even if you are not concerned about your teen being a drunk driver, you should still talk to them about the dangers of being in a vehicle with an intoxicated driver. Guardian Interlock suggests a few tips for how parents might discuss drunk driving with teens:
- Consider creating and signing a parent-teen driving agreement with your teen(s). Research shows that when parents establish and enforce the “rules of the road,” new drivers are less at risk of crashes.
- Make your feelings about drinking and driving known. Experts advise that you should let your teen know how you feel about both underage drinking and underage drinking and driving. Avoid a lecturing tone, and rather approach the conversation with a perspective of trying to save their life. You might consider sharing the statistics on teen crashes and let them know you’re concerned about their wellbeing.
● Let them know you’d notice if they’ve been drinking. Some teens think their parents won’t notice when they’ve been drinking. Teens also tend to have the same attitude when it comes to law enforcement. Letting teens know that it’s not so easy to slip by can help them consider the consequences of drinking underage or drinking and driving.
● Help your teen avoid peer pressure. Start by putting yourself in their shoes. Peer pressure is a big deal when you’re a teen! Keep in mind that your teen could feel coerced into drinking or getting into a car with someone they know has been drinking. Work together with your teen to strategize on how to avoid situations where there may be alcohol and driving (or alcohol in general) and what to do if a dangerous situation arises.
Talking about underage drinking and teen drinking and driving isn’t always easy, but a little time spent in conversation might save your child’s life!
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