Drinking and Driving

An average of one teenager dies each hour in a car crash in the United States, and nearly 50 percent of those crashes involve alcohol, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHSTA).

Alcohol is the drug of choice and the drug most widely abused by children. Alcohol abuse occurs among all geographic, ethnic and racial groups. Teenagers lack the coping and judgment skills necessary to handle alcohol wisely.

Did You Know?

  • There are an estimated 3.3 million teen-age alcoholics in the United States.
  • Adolescents who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin drinking at age 21.
  • Youth who drink alcohol are five times more likely to smoke cigarettes, four times more likely to smoke marijuana and three times more likely to use an illicit drug.
  • Teens that use alcohol tend to become sexually active at earlier ages.
  • Teenagers who use alcohol are more likely to be victims of violent crimes such as aggravated assault, robbery or rape.
  • The use of alcohol by adolescents is implicated in about one third of all fatal crashes involving teenagers.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure and environmental factors impact a teenager’s decision to use alcohol. Therefore, parents play an important role in influencing their children.

Indications of Alcohol Abuse

  • A decline in school performance
  • Exhibits high-risk or a sudden change in behavior
  • Missing money

Why Teenagers Are Different

Due to the lack of driving experience, teens are less proficient at detecting and reacting to driving hazards, controlling the car and adjusting the rate of speed in variable conditions. Adolescent driving habits also are influenced by peer pressure, emotions and other stress factors.

Night driving is more difficult and a teenager is four times more likely to be killed while driving at night than during the day. Also, the low rate of safety belt use among teenagers increases the risk and severity of injuries in a crash. The risk of injury to teens in a car crash more than triples when they are not wearing seat belts.

Why Teenagers Drink

  • 79.7 percent say being drunk/high feels good
  • 67 percent say it helps to forget problems
  • 66 percent say it’s because others do it (peer pressure)
  • 47 percent say they have nothing else better to do

Safety Tips

Helping teens understand why they are not equipped to handle the responsibility of drinking alcohol and why it is most important to never drink and drive is an important and necessary task. Use the following guidelines to educate your children on the merits of obeying the law and being safe rather than sorry.

Set the Example

  • Drink alcohol responsibly.
  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Don’t speed.
  • Require all occupants to wear seat belts.
  • Ensure mechanical safety of any car used by a teen.
  • Impose penalties for irresponsible driving.
  • Limit the number and age of passengers and restrict nighttime driving for new drivers.
  • Delay the onset of unsupervised driving until the parent is confident of the drivers’ ability.

Teach Your Children

  • Educate teens about all related laws. Make it clear that alcohol is illegal to buy or possess if you are under 21.
  • Begin to educate children about alcohol as young as 9 to 11 years of age.
  • Teach children about true friendship so they will be able to stand up to peer pressure.

Stay Involved

  • Staying involved with your children as they become adults is important for their own self-worth as well as your peace of mind.
  • Encourage them to talk to you about anything.
  • Encourage the choice of friends who don’t drink.
  • Insist that they never get into a car with a drinking driver or friend. Tell them to call you or another trustworthy adult or to take a taxi that you will pay for.
  • Encourage them to avoid parties where alcohol is served.

Make the Rules

It is important that parents talk with young people and prohibit drinking and driving and being in a car with a drinking or drunk driver. It is important for parents to engage in conversation about each of these issues and the harsh consequences of them being violated. Also, investigate the consequences of being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) while underage.