I believe that, in addition to talking to our kids frankly about drinking and driving, we also need to make sure that the school officials and the local police are all on the same page. We can't expect our kids to do the "right" thing, when they are afraid that they will get punished for doing it. This just doesn't make sense.
Melissa shares with us what teens and parents need to know.
The Impact and Consequences of Teen Drunk Driving
Before a teenager hits the age of 16, we as parents need to begin having conversations regarding the impact and consequences of teen drunk driving. You may think your teen does not want to hear this, but the more frequent the communication the better. The consequences of drunk driving not only impact a teen’s present life, but can greatly impact their future career goals, continued education and freedom if imprisoned or sentenced to an alcohol rehab program.
So what do our teens need to know?
Many teenagers live in the moment and are frankly too immature to realize their actions can impact the lives of others around them. This is an important part of drunk driving prevention education. Help your teen understand that if they drink and drive, they are putting other lives at risk besides their own, which can include elderly people, children, or even their own friends or family. Help them understand that they could cause a tragedy to another family. This should be explained carefully, however, as to not accuse your teenager of doing something they haven’t done yet. Rather than reprimanding them, talk to them calmly and in a non-hysterical manner so they are not so quick to blow you off.
Laws regarding vehicles and alcohol in your state are also important to go over with your teen. If a minor transports a 21 year old to purchase them alcohol, the minor can lose their license in some states. Talk to them about open containers in vehicles and driving with someone that possesses illegal substances. Help your teen understand that if alcohol is found in the car, even though they are completely sober, they can still be fined and charged.
Many fatal drunk driving tragedies occur among high school students, every day. I personally know at least 7 teenagers, who have died in relation to a drunk driving accident. Many were passengers, who were intoxicated themselves, and the driver, who was also intoxicated, survived. Others were driving alone and ran off the road or struck another vehicle or tree. No matter what the circumstances of these accidents, the impact these deaths made on our community were significant, whether people knew the victims personally or not. One of them, my brother’s best friend, tragically died on my birthday when he was ejected out a vehicle after crashing into a tree. He paid the ultimate price. I will never forget him and to this day, it still brings sadness to me on an otherwise happy day.
If a young teen has died in your community due to a drunk driving accident, openly talk to your son or daughter about it. Ask them how they feel and if it has put things into perspective for them. If the driver survived, ask them if they think it’s the drivers fault. They may be eager to ask questions or to better understand the situation. Often times, the driver is responsible and often charged with manslaughter. However, it’s important to talk to your teen and make them understand that while it’s very tragic that there were any fatalities at all, those people made a choice to drive with someone drunk, under the influence or not. We must make our teens aware that every choice has consequences.
Reflecting back to my own teen and college years, I made plenty of risky mistakes in regards to drinking. I can honestly say I’ve been in a vehicle operated by a drunk driver and even though I was also intoxicated, I remember having the thought that it was a bad mistake. Since that day, I have made the choice not to get in the car with someone who is intoxicated, whether they had one beer or three. For me, it’s simply not worth it, even if I’m going a mile or two, but it took me awhile to mature and make that decision for myself. Now, entering my 30’s, I still know many friends who sadly still make the choice to drink and drive.
Not until college did I realize the severe impacts of underage drinking and teen drunk driving. I am not blaming my parents per se, but I never drank in high school and alcohol just was not a present factor in my household. Before then, I really never understood how alcohol could impact my future or my college career. When I was younger, I always went along with the mentality that I am a good kid and as long as I stay under the radar I can’t get into trouble. It wasn’t until 2 months into my freshman year of college that I was busted for drinking in the dorms. I realized if you’re breaking the law, you’re breaking the law. I luckily didn’t get in trouble, but it scared me enough to be smarter about the choices I made and I learned quickly to not drink and drive around a college campus, to be smart about public intoxication and what to do if a friend was severely intoxicated. Unfortunately, these were all lessons I had to learn on my own. I had watched too many friends get arrested or get in serious trouble due to substance use issues because they continued to make bad choices.
Essentially, we can only educate our children so much and prepare them with the knowledge to make the right decisions. Knowing the consequences of drunk driving, well in advance, may just help a teen consider their future before they make the hasty decision to drive drunk or get in the car with an intoxicated friend. Even if your teen still decides to experiment with alcohol, they may make a safer choice because they knew the consequences beforehand. Encourage them to always call you if they are in an uncomfortable situation or need a ride home, it just may save many lives, including their own.
About Melissa Davey:
Melissa currently writes for St. Jude Retreats, a non 12-step alternative to traditional alcohol and drug rehab. She has worked extensively with non-profits in the past to create drug free work zones, and has experience with teen drunk driving prevention. As of the moment, she leads the content development for St. Jude Retreats. Along with experience as a manager in her former work, she has a Journalism Degree from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and has studied sociology as well. In addition to writing for St. Jude’s, Melissa enjoys blogging about health, relationships and advice.
About St. Jude Retreats:
In 1988 a career researcher, Mr. Gerald Brown, sought to determine the actual success rates for conventional alcohol rehab and drug rehabilitation, as well as 12-step support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. As he was conducting his research, he met the man who would become his research assistant, Mr. Mark Scheeren. After three years of intensive research, together they created the first social/educational model to help people to overcome drug and alcohol problems. Thus, the St. Jude Program was born (1992), providing a solution to the ever-increasing substance use problem in the United States.
Today, the St. Jude Team has grown to more than 60 dedicated individuals, who have brought new hope and renewed lives to thousands of people struggling with substance use issues. As researchers, educators, and the original creators of the non-disease, non 12-step model, St. Jude continues to lead the way for the drug treatment industry as our program is continuously updated with the newest research. Our goal is to provide the most effective program and we build effectiveness into every aspect of our cognitive, behavioral, education process.