Teenage Drinking & Driving
Each year, almost a million teenagers drink alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle. This leads to many accidents, some of which are fatal. While teen drinking and driving is fortunately on the decline, there is still work to be done. Understand more about the scope of drinking and driving, why teens drink and drive, how to help teens recover from alcohol abuse or addiction and how parents can prevent teens from being involved in alcohol-related car accidents.
The Impact of Teen Drinking and Driving
First, the good news: Teenage drinking and driving is down over 50% since 1991. The not so positive news is that over 10% of high school students report that they drink and then drive at least once a month.
In the United States alone, teen alcohol use kills almost 5,000 people a year. Some of those victims are teens who drove their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Some of those victims are the passengers, often other teens, who felt comfortable getting in the vehicle with an intoxicated driver. Still more of those victims are innocent drivers, passengers and pedestrians who died because of a drunk teen driver’s actions and decisions.
Currently, car crashes are one of the leading causes of death for teenagers. Teen drivers are also 17 times more likely to die in a car crash if they have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent compared to when completely sober.
Clearly, teen drinking and driving is a significant problem. Teenagers are the least experienced demographic of drivers. On top of that, they are the least used to drinking, and they may not realize how quickly alcohol can impact judgement behind the wheel. While it is positive that teen drinking and driving is on the decline, it is important not to rest until there are zero alcohol-related teen vehicle accidents each year.
Why Teenagers Drink and Drive
No two teenagers are the same. Similarly, no two teenagers drink and drive for the same reason. However, some of the biggest factors include not wanting to admit to intoxication, feelings of invincibility, peer examples and a prevalence of binge drinking.
One of the main reasons that teens drink and drive might surprise a lot of parents. Often, teens drive while under the influence of alcohol because they don’t want to admit to their parents that they have been drinking. Teens may not have planned to drink at a social event or a party, but then end up drinking anyway. Rather than calling parents to pick them up, or finding another type of transportation, they drive under the influence of alcohol.
Teens may also drive after drinking because they feel invincible. Many teens feel confident about their driving abilities, or they may feel like nothing bad can really happen. This leads them to take risks. Sometimes, it is alcohol itself that creates a level of overconfidence causing teens to drink and drive.
It is also important not to ignore the peer pressure factor. Teens don’t want to admit to their friends that they are incapacitated or they want to show how they can function even when they are intoxicated. It may be seen as uncool not to be able to drink and then retain full function and ability. However, this is completely misguided, and it can lead many teens to drive even when they know they are under the influence of alcohol and not operating as well as when they are sober.
Finally, binge drinking can be a factor in the sheer number of teens who drink and drive. Teens are more likely than any other age group to binge drink, or drink more than four alcoholic drinks in two hours. This means that teens who do drink and drive are likely to be heavily intoxicated.
How Parents Can Help Prevent Teenage Drinking and Driving Accidents
Many parents want to take action to prevent their teens from drinking and driving. However, not all parents know how to do so. Parents need to inform, be aware, be a good influence and be a ride.
First, parents need to inform their teens about the dangers of drinking and driving. If there is a personal anecdote to share, that can be especially helpful. Explaining the scope of drinking and driving accidents, and how many people it impacts, can prevent teens from taking the risk in the first place.
Parents should be aware of where their teen children are and who they are with. Teens should never be in a position where they need to ride with someone intoxicated, and they should never have the opportunity to drive while under the influence.
Sadly, many parents tell their teens not to drink and drive, but they do so themselves. Teens mimic the actions of their parents. If a parent says not to drink and drive, but he or she gets behind the wheel after wine with dinner, teens might not think that drinking and driving is really a problem.
Last, but certainly not least, parents should be available for rides. Teens should know that in any circumstances, parents will pick up their teen rather than have them drive under the influence of alcohol or be a passenger of an intoxicated teen driver. This also means holding judgment until another time when the teen is not under the influence.
Treating Teens With Alcohol Abuse or Addiction Disorders
Teens who are drinking and driving may already be struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction. These conditions can encourage risky behavior and cause lapses in judgement. Thankfully, treatment is available, and teens can begin the route to recovery.
Teens who struggle with alcoholism might need to start with a detox to break free from a chemical addiction to alcohol itself. Then, addiction treatment can begin in earnest. There are multiple programs available, including residential treatment and outpatient treatment, to accommodate school schedules if needed.
Through treatment, teens can enjoy the life of sobriety they deserve. Not only will they be free from the risk of drinking and driving, but they can be free to pursue passions, careers and relationships in the years ahead.
In order to reduce teen drinking and driving, both teens and parents need to be involved. Learning more about the risks, and understanding the dangers of teen drinking, can help to save countless lives every year.