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Dead Serious – Addressing Drinking and Driving with Your Teens

It’s summer and that means teens have a whole lot more time on their hands. Time to hit the pool, surf the waves on the beach, earn some extra spending cash, and most importantly – hang out with their friends. No doubt about it, for a teen, summer can be an awesome time for social growth and maturation. Unfortunately, this season is not all about fun…

With school out teens may find themselves facing some tough and potentially life-altering decisions, like whether or not to drink and drive. While summer carries a lot of anticipated fun and excitement, it also becomes one of the most deadly times of the year for teen drivers.

The 100 Deadliest Days for Teens

The time span between Memorial Day and Labor Day has been called “The 100 Deadliest Days” for teen drivers. Too much free time and not enough on-the-road experience poses a risk for these young drivers. In addition, teens are more likely to engage in “distracted driving” behavior, which describes activities that can endanger the safety of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Examples of distracted driving include loud music, friends in the car, texting, and talking on the phone.

While sober, teens are already at an increased risk of accidents, but mix in alcohol and you have the potential for fatalities.-Raychelle Lohmann

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 10 percent of high school students drank alcohol and drove in 2013 and 22 percent rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol. While those numbers may seem astronomical, there is good news. The number of teens who drink and drive has decreased by more than 50 percent since 1991.

Before we celebrate, with one in ten teens reporting drinking and driving, there is clearly a lot of work to be done. There is still cause for concern when studies show teen drivers (ages 16-20) are 17 times more likely to be in a crash resulting in death when they have a blood alcohol concentration of .08% than when they have had nothing to drink.

Here are some more sobering statistics from the CDC:

  • In 2012, 23% of drivers ages 15 to 20 involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes had been drinking.
  • In 2013, 22% of teens reported that within the previous month, they rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
  • In 2012, 71% of drivers ages 15 to 20 were killed in motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving were not wearing a seat belt.
  • In 2012, 49% of teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and midnight.

Setting High Expectations

If your teen drives, or will be hopping the in car with any other teen this summer, then you need to be proactive in setting high expectations, especially when it comes to drinking and driving or riding in a car with a driver who has been drinking.

Here are some tips to help you keep your teen and his/her friends safe this summer:

  • Let your teen know your expectations about drinking.
  • Let your teen know your rules about driving under the influence or hopping in the car with anyone who has been drinking.
  • Question your teen. Before he/she heads out the door, ask these five essential questions:

    #1 Where are you going?

    #2 What are you going to be doing?

    #3 Who are you going to be with?

    #4 Who is driving?

    #5 When will you be home?
  • Give your teen an out. If your teen finds himself in a situation where others have been drinking, allow him a free ride if he’ll call you to come and pick him up. If your teen feels as though he will get in trouble, it may deter him from getting help in a situation he really needs you.
  • If you suspect your teen has been drinking and driving, check her when she walks in the door:
  • Look to see if her mouth is suspiciously filled with gum or mints.
  • Look at her eyes to see if they are bloodshot and/or her pupils are dilated.
  • Listen for slurred speech.
  • Check to see if she is walking straight or swaying right and left.

Proactive Parenting

So, summer is in full swing and teens have places to go and things to do. Set expectations high and educate your teen about the dangers of drinking and driving and drinking and riding with an impaired driver.

There is more than one life that can be saved by taking a proactive approach with your teen.

Have a happy and safe summer!

Image courtesy of Pixabay

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