December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. The holiday season becomes one of the most dangerous times of the year for alcohol-related accidents and death. It’s important for parents to talk to their teens about drinking and driving. Teen drivers already are three times as likely to get into a crash because they are new to the roads. Not only is it illegal for teens to drink alcohol, but it adds to their already high crash risk.
Teenage drinking and driving causes thousands of preventable deaths every year and seriously injures to thousands more people. Parents can help prevent these accidents by learning about teenage drinking and driving and taking steps to discourage their teens from driving drunk or riding with a drunk driver.
Parents can have a big impact on teenage drinking and driving. Some things that parents can do include:
- Tell teens not to drink and drive, and tell them it’s because they could be killed, paralyzed, or otherwise seriously injured. They could also hurt or kill someone else. Let your teen know that you care about them and don’t want this to happen to them.
- Set and enforce rules about driving, including no teenage drinking and driving. Establish reasonable consequences to rules and enforce them if the teen breaks the rules. Consider having a driving contract that states that if the teen drinks and drives he or she will lose his or her driving privileges.
- Teens should be able to call a parent or another trusted adult to get a safe ride if they need it.
- Encourage teens to have fun without using alcohol. Set a good example by enjoying your favorite activities without drinking and not encouraging people to drink to have fun. Never drink and drive.
- Do not allow drugs or alcohol at parties at your house if teens are present. If teens drink at your house, you can be held legally responsible for anything that happens.
- Know your teen’s friends and parents and make sure they know your rules too.
- Ask teens where they are going, whom they will be with, and what they will be doing every time they go out.
Parents who set and consistently enforce rules can reduce the chances of teenage drinking and driving. Help teens understand that your rules regarding driving are not about control, but about your concerns for their safety. Involve the teens in making the rules and deciding on the consequences to help them feel more trusted and involved, and to increase the likelihood that they will follow the rules.
Here are some things to know about teen drinking and driving:
- Adults drink and drive more than teens do. But teens have a higher chance of crashing if they drink, even if they don’t have very much.
- More young drivers are drinking now. In 2008, 38 percent of the young drivers who were in deadly crashes were drinking. In 2011, the number rose to 41 percent.
- 24 percent of teen passengers say they have ridden with a teen driver who had been drinking
- When they drink, teens tend to drink too much or binge drink.
- 3 out of 4 teens killed in drunk driving accidents were not wearing seatbelts.
- Most teen deaths from car accidents occur on nights and weekends, when teens have been out at parties, are tired, and/or are distracted.
Thanks to increased education and awareness, the number of incidents involving teenage drinking and driving has declined, but it is still too high for a cause of death that can be prevented.