Alcohol-related crashes

Preventing Underage Drinking and Driving

Underage drinking should and does pose concern for parents. Combine drinking with teens who are receiving their learner’s permits or full operators license and you have a recipe for disaster.

For parents and guardians, it will be up to them to make sure that they set the parameters and guidelines to keep their teens safe at all times. But doing so without imposing too much control and giving away too much freedom is essential. Otherwise, teens may make the wrong choices when faced with decisions, they may soon regret.

So what can be done? What can be done to help a teen from getting into preventable bad situations?

There are a few steps parents can take, including:

Get to know the parents of the teen’s friends – Acquaint yourself with the parents of your teen’s friends. Make sure you are on the same wavelength when it comes to what your expectations and parameters are for your teen. Also, treating your teen’s friends with respect or as if they are family will make them think twice before trying something irresponsible. If another parent isn’t too concerned about underage drinking, put out facts. Never argue, instead, share your concerns and the reason you have them, along with the facts and statistics on underage drinking and how it affects the teenage brain. Once they understand the science and statistics, hopefully they will change their minds.

Hide/Lock up the alcohol – Remember, out of sight, out of mind. Don’t make it easy for them to find alcohol and be irresponsible. Ask the parents of your teen’s friends to do the same. Homeowners and other adults can be held liable for what occurs in their home whether they were present or not. Be prudent and not an enabler for reckless teen behavior.

Be the example for them to follow – Be consistent in your message. Never break the rules you make or take part in illegal, unhealthy or dangerous substances or activities. Your actions are the most powerful message to your teen of what is acceptable in your family.

Limit teen driving times and vehicle access – Create and follow a parent-teen contract. Give them limits as to when they can drive a vehicle and how often they can use it. Check in often with your teen. Be sure you know how to reach them. Know where they’re going and ask whether anyone will have alcohol and if adults will be present.

Support the law – Most of the underage drinking laws have made bars and liquor establishments responsible for whatever damages an underage customer might do or incur. They are also likely to have their licenses for selling revoked, if proven to be selling to minors or someone with fake ids. Law enforcement is also cracking down on the makers of fake ids, and violators are given harsh penalties if proven guilty.

Install an anti-distracted driving mobile application – Most of these apps are designed to combat distracted driving, but they can also be used to set safe driving zones, and can alert you if a teen is going over a certain pre-approved point, like, say, a bar or known trouble area. It could also help prevent your teen from getting into a distracted driving crash.

Talk to your teen – Have a straight-up conversation about the effects of drinking and the dangers of drinking and driving. Make sure they understand the penalties, how it reflects on their legal and driving records and how that might affect them in the future. Tell them of your family’s history of alcohol and drug use, since there is a genetic predisposition towards risk of addiction. Be alert and ready to talk with your teen, when they come in at night. Ask them about how their evening went and be prepared to tackle what they share with you. Having an open conversation and understanding with teens can often do wonders for both the teen’s safety and their relationship with their parents.

Recognize and praise them when they have been responsible and demonstrated good judgment. Together with other concerned parents, many crashes that happen during the teenage years can be prevented. Be concerned and vigilant, but not overprotective. Teen drivers may seem like they are maturing to adulthood, but they are not quite there. Balancing expectations with responsibility and implementing precautions, will help to avoid the dangers of underage drinking and drinking and driving.

Learn more about Technology to Prevent Drunk Driving at the National Safety Commission.