For many parents, the day their high school kid passes the driving test administered by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is a day of mixed emotions.
On the one hand is the feeling of relief—even pride—that their teenager can already drive a vehicle legally, albeit with a learner’s permit.
On the other is apprehension, because driving does carry inherent risks. Teen drivers are already three times more likely to figure in a deadly crash than more experienced drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Add teen drunk driving to the mix, and the risk only becomes more significant.
Most teenagers are drawn to alcohol out of curiosity. You can consider yourself fortunate if your teenager is not interested in alcohol for any reason, but they’re vulnerable to peer pressure just the same. Their friends might be drinkers already, and they might be worried about being left out if they refuse to partake.
If you’re in the habit of putting beer in the fridge or stocking up your liquor cabinet, now would be a good time to stop. You cannot expect teenagers to avoid alcohol when there’s so much of it in sight, right within their home.
It’s understandable if you enjoy alcohol from time to time, but you must set an example for your child. Your teenager seeing you booze it up—no matter how occasionally—is more than enough reason for him or her to follow your lead.
Make it crystal clear that they are not allowed to drink alcohol under any circumstances. Remind them constantly that the law says they’re minors who are not supposed to drink until they’re 21. Let them know that there are legal consequences for drinking or even possessing alcohol if they’re underage.
You should also explain the penalties that come with a DUI conviction. Your child needs to be aware that, however harmful underage drinking may be, underage DUI will always be worse.
If your state has zero-tolerance laws, make sure your teenager knows that under them, teenagers driving with even the tiniest amount of alcohol in their system will be arrested and charged with underage DUI.
Once convicted of underage DUI, teenagers will be looking at jail time, hefty fines, license suspension, DUI classes, and the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicle.
A DUI conviction isn’t even the worst consequence of drunk driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drunk driving crashes kill more than 10,000 people per year. Make sure your kid gets that information, too.
You can’t choose your children’s friends for them, but you can impose strict rules about hanging out with friends who drink.
State in no uncertain terms that they should never spend time with them while they’re getting drunk because other things that are as bad or even worse than drunk driving can happen when there’s alcohol involved. More importantly, warn them not to get in a vehicle with friends who have been drinking.
Since time immemorial, peer pressure has been goading countless teenagers to drink, drive drunk, or accept rides from friends who are under the influence of alcohol.
Alcohol-related peer pressure will always be around, especially in high school. Teach your child ways to deal with it, like what they need to say or do if a friend offers him or her an alcoholic beverage. Your child also needs to learn how to refuse offers for a ride from drunk friends.
Everyone makes mistakes, especially teenagers. Your kid may give in to peer pressure or simply be curious about alcohol. Whatever the case, you need to encourage your child to call you for a ride home in such a situation.
If your kid feels scared about coming home intoxicated, give the assurance that all you want is for him or her to make it home safely. You can pick up your child yourself, or you can call a ridesharing service to send over a car.
As mentioned above, DUI offenders are typically ordered by courts to have an ignition interlock device or IID installed in their cars. However, there is such a thing as a voluntary interlock installation, and you can use that to reduce further any chances your teenager will be driving drunk.
Essentially a breathalyzer directly hooked up to a car’s engine, an IID requires drivers to provide a breath sample by blowing into the device each time they get behind the wheel. The IID will then analyze the breath sample and measure the driver’s blood alcohol content or BAC.
If the BAC is below a preset limit—usually 0.02% in most states—the driver can start the car and drive away. A BAC of 0.02% or above, however, means the device will prevent the driver from starting the vehicle.
Cheating an IID by having a sober individual provide the breath sample also wouldn’t work. IIDs are designed to ask for periodic rolling retests, which means the driver will have to provide more breath samples the entire trip.
On the surface, a voluntary IID installation may seem like you’re going overboard with the measures to prevent your teen from driving drunk. However, if you know for a fact that your teenager already drinks with friends from time to time, you would want the assurance that he or she won’t be getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. An ignition interlock device can provide that assurance and more.
Far too many teenagers have already lost their lives—and ruined that of others—by driving under the influence. By being more proactive in our parenting, we can prevent our loved one from becoming just another drunk driving statistic.
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