Underage Drinking and Driving an Important Conversation for Parents and Teens

No longer are 15-year-olds counting the days until they can get their driver’s license. According to AAA one out of every three teens is just not all that excited about driving and only 44 percent of them get their driver’s license within the first year of eligibility. Just 54 percent of teens get their license before age 18. One aspect of this trend is that it may be contributing to a decade-long decline in drinking and driving among young people, but the problem remains.

Although the number of U.S. teen alcohol-related traffic fatalities has dropped by 54 percent since 1991, underage drinkers still choose to drive 2.4 million times a month. There is still plenty of danger for teens that get in the car with someone who has been drinking or who decides to drive themselves. It won’t matter that fewer teens are drinking and driving if your child happens to be one who makes the wrong choice.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 15 percent of 18- to 20-year-olds admit to drinking and driving at least once over the last 12 months. If kids are caught, most states maintain a zero tolerance policy for minors who drink and drive. Underage drinkers who are found with any amount of alcohol in their blood will at the very least see their driver’s license suspended for three months.

So despite a positive trend, parents should still maintain a discussion with their teens about not getting in a car with someone who has been drinking, and plan for how their child can get home.

Parents should let teens know that the younger a person starts drinking the greater the risk that they will abuse alcohol and the greater their risk of being involved in an accident compared to people who wait until 21 to start drinking. Moms and dads can also point out that receiving a DUI can bring consequences that last for years to come.

They should also note that a DUI would be the best possible outcome for underage drinking and driving. Being involved in an accident, injuring themselves or someone else are very real risks associated with drinking and driving and teens need to hear these harsh truths.

Apart from having these frank discussions and establishing safe guidelines for teens, parents can further safeguard their children by providing a positive example with their own behavior. A warning won’t mean much to a teen if they see mom and dad making choices that contradict the rules.