How to Prevent Your Teen From Drunk Driving
Drunk driving is among the most common and fatal causes of death in teenagers. The CDC reports that one in five teen drivers involved in fatal accidents had alcohol in their systems. When young drivers drink alcohol, their reaction time, vision, judgment, and coordination all get worse, which makes it much more likely that they will get into an accident.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says teens who drink and drive cause about a quarter of all fatal car accidents. Furthermore, 5.8% of 16 and 17-year-olds and 15.1% of 18 to 20-year-olds reported operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
As a parent, you might believe your adolescent would never drink and drive, but studies indicate otherwise. So, what steps can you take to stop your teen from driving after drinking alcohol? Read on for some helpful and tested strategies.
Help Them Understand the Risks
By having open and honest conversations with your teenage children about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you can help prevent potentially tragic consequences.
Educate your teens on the severe risks involved and the life-changing consequences that can result from impaired driving. Consider sharing statistics and real-life examples to drive home the importance of making responsible choices when behind the wheel. Remember, it’s never too early to start the conversation and promote safe driving habits that will last a lifetime.
Set Clear Expectations and Consequences
A study of over 1000 teens found that teens with “hands-on” parents who establish clear behavior expectations, monitor their teens’ comings and goings, and aren’t afraid to say no are four times less likely to get into drinking and driving.
Tell your teen that drinking alcohol is illegal for anyone under age 21 and that you will not tolerate it. Communicate the legal consequences of violating DUI laws, including:
- Jail time
- Having your license taken away
- Taking online DUI classes
Talk about the effects on the family, such as being unable to drive, having a curfew, or doing community service. Be consistent and firm in enforcing these consequences if your teen breaks the rules.
Lead by Example
One of the most important ways parents can influence their teens is by modeling responsible behavior around alcohol and driving. Teens who see their parents drinking and driving are more likely to do the same, while teens whose parents show safe and sober habits will most likely not drink and drive.
Here are some specific examples of how you can lead by example:
- Plan for designated drivers or use ride-sharing services whenever you are out for drinks with friends or family. Never get behind the wheel if you have been drinking, even if you think you are not impaired.
- Speak with your teen about the risks and legal and social consequences of drinking and driving. Explain that alcohol can impair judgment, reaction time, coordination, and vision, making driving or riding with someone who is drinking unsafe.
- Set clear rules and boundaries for your teen regarding alcohol use and driving. For example, you can tell your teen that underage drinking is unacceptable in your family and that they should never drive after drinking or ride with someone who has been drinking. You can also establish curfews and check-in times for your teen when they go out with friends.
- Monitor your teen’s activities and whereabouts, as well as their friends and social media posts. Show interest in your teen’s life and ask open-ended questions about their plans and experiences. Be supportive and respectful of your teen’s opinions and choices, but also be firm and consistent when enforcing rules.
- Praise your teen for making good decisions and showing responsibility for alcohol and driving. Recognize their achievements and efforts in school, sports, hobbies, or other areas of interest. Express your love and trust in your teen regularly.
Encourage Open Communication
Fostering a relationship of trust and open communication with your teen can prevent underage drinking and impaired driving. Here are some tips for starting conversations about alcohol and driving with your teen:
- Ask open-ended questions that invite your teen to share their thoughts and feelings. For example, “What do you think about drinking and driving?” or “How do you handle peer pressure to drink?”
- Share personal stories or experiences that relate to the topic. For example, “When I was your age, I had a friend who got into a car accident after drinking. It was very scary, and I learned a lot from it.”
- Encourage your teen to ask questions and express concerns without fear of judgment or punishment. For example, “If you ever find yourself in a situation where you or someone else has been drinking and needs a ride home, please call me. I won’t be angry or disappointed. I want you to be safe.”
- Listen actively and respectfully to what your teen says. Avoid interrupting, criticizing, or lecturing. Show empathy and understanding. For example, “I hear what you’re saying. Saying no when everyone else is drinking might be challenging.”
- Praise your teen for being honest and responsible. Reinforce positive behaviors and choices. For example, “I’m proud of you for sticking to your decision not to drink.”
Provide Alternative Activities
Giving your teens other things to do that don’t involve risky behavior will make them less likely to drink alcohol or drive while drunk.
Plan fun, engaging, and healthy activities that your teen can do with their friends or family. They can help your teen develop new skills, hobbies, interests, and relationships. They can also reduce boredom, stress, peer pressure, and the temptation to drink or drive.
Some examples of alternative activities include the following:
You can host a movie night at home or go to a theater with your teen and their friends. Choose a genre everyone likes, such as comedy, horror, or action. You can also provide snacks and drinks that are alcohol-free.
Organize a game night with your teen and their friends. You can play board games, card games, video games, or trivia games. Prepare prizes for the winners and losers.
Encourage your teen to explore nature and get some exercise with their friends. You can go hiking, biking, camping, fishing, kayaking, or skiing. Let them join a sports team or club that suits their interests and abilities.
Preventing your teen from drunk driving requires proactive steps as a parent or guardian. You can start by talking to them about the risks and consequences of drinking and driving, how the ignition interlock device works, giving statistics to show how bad the problem is, and stressing again how important it is to talk openly and honestly.
When you do this, you are helping your teen make responsible choices and avoid the devastating consequences of drunk driving.
About the author
Lauren McDowell is the Content Marketing Strategist for Interlock Install, a Phoenix-based company that performs the installations, service appointments, and removals for ADS Interlock. When not writing, she attends book clubs and enjoys reading stories to her kids.