Although statistics from the Center for Disease Control indicate that teen drinking and driving has decreased over the last 20 years, the problem is far from solved. To many of us, it may seem baffling that this is even still an issue. After all the stories of death, injury, and prison time that surround drunk driving, how can teens even consider it?
A recent survey by USA Today revealed some startling survey results about what may be going on in the mind of teenagers when they get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. According to the results, 23% of teens admit to having driven under the influence of alcohol or drugs at least one time. What is truly shocking is that of this number, almost 20% believe that alcohol improves their driving. This number rises even higher with those who drive under the influence of marijuana, with 34% believing they are better drivers while high than they are sober. Clearly skewed perception is playing a vital role in the continuation of this epidemic.
So what can parents do to spread the truth about the deadly and permanent consequences that come with driving under the influence of any substance?
First of all, don’t assume that your kids already know all the dangers of drinking and driving, or that they don’t need to hear it again. Just because your teen learns about it once in a driver’s education class, doesn’t mean they don’t need you as a parent to continue the conversation. Don’t be a afraid to ask your teen probing questions such as, “Do your friends drink?” or “Have any of them ever gotten behind the wheel of a car after drinking?” If the answers are yes, thank them for being honest and then take a few minutes to lay out some real stories and consequences that have happened to teens who have driven drunk.
Remind your teen about the Zero Tolerance law. They may think that getting pulled over after one beer will have no consequences, but in reality anyone under the age of 21 caught with any trace of alcohol in their system could face serious consequences, such as losing their license for three to six months.
Another important step is to know and communicate with the parents whose homes your teen is going to. Over 28% of teens reported that they had consumed alcohol or drugs at a supervised party. Make a pact with the other parents that are hosting your teen and their friends to keep an eye on teens coming and going from their homes to ensure no one is leaving (or coming) less than 100% sober.
Even when your teen gets angry, embarrassed, or flat out annoyed with your efforts to prevent them from drunk driving, don’t ever give up. Someday, it could save their life.
Crosswinds is a non-profit organization that provides in-home family counseling and residential treatment for struggling teens.