What Parents Can Do to Keep Teens from Driving While Impaired

teen distracted driving

Distracted driving is just as dangerous as driving drunk (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

There is no question that drinking and driving is dangerous and over the last 30 years our society has made great strides in making this practice socially unacceptable.  And yet, we are still losing an average of one person every hour to alcohol involved automobile accidents.   When it comes to drugged driving, the picture is even bleaker.  According to a national survey in 2010, more than 10 million people admitted to driving under the influence of an illicit drug in the past year.   When you consider that automobile accidents remain one of the leading causes of death for 15-19 year olds, the need for parents, schools, and communities to instill in our teenagers the dangers of these behaviors is clear.

December is National Drugged and Drunk Driving Prevention Awareness month which offers an excellent opportunity to reach out to the teenagers in your life and help them understand why driving while impaired is so dangerous.  Thirty years ago small groups of people set out to change the way our society viewed drinking and driving.  Now, we need to continue that effort by helping educate the next generation and raise everyone’s awareness so that our roads will be safer for everyone.

Here are some ways you can make a difference in the life of a teenager this month by promoting safe driving and raising awareness about drunk and drugged driving dangers.

1.     Educate

For those of us who grew up in the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) generation, the dangers of drinking and driving are well-known.  But there is less focus on this issue for the teens of today.  Additionally, awareness about driving under the influence of drugs, both illicit and prescription, hasn’t gotten the same national press as driving drunk.  Education is one of our most powerful weapons against impaired driving.  Get involved in helping educate your teen and other teens in your community about the realities of impaired driving.

2.     Promote Safe Driving

Research has shown that when parents are strict about obeying laws and following rules in relation to regular driving teenagers are better drivers.  For example, parents who penalized their teens for getting a speeding ticket or failing to stop at a stop sign were more likely to wear their seat belts, obey traffic signs, and use their turn signals.  Setting expectations around driving behaviors and promoting safe driving practices may decrease the likelihood that your teenager will drive while impaired.

3.     Institute a Zero Tolerance No Consequences Policy

One of the most important things a parent can do to encourage their teenagers to make the right choices in regards to impaired driving is to put the right rules in place.   The first and most important part of the “policy” regarding driving while impaired should be one of zero tolerance.  This means that there is never an acceptable reason to drive while impaired and any instance will carry significant consequences.  This sets a clear expectation that no matter what, driving while impaired is not worth the risk.  The second part of the “policy” is no consequences.  This means that if your teen makes a bad decision regarding alcohol or drugs and chooses not to drive, they can call home for a ride without getting in trouble for the bad decision.

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