With approximately 13 million licensed teenage drivers in the United States, it’s disturbing that more than one in 10 report driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs on New Year’s Eve.
According to a new study, New Year’s Eve is the most common night of the year for teens to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking or using other drugs. What’s more, teens already know this is a hazardous time to be on the road. Of the more than 1,700 teens surveyed, 49 percent consider driving on New Year’s Eve to be very dangerous or extremely dangerous. And parents may not be helping to curb this behavior, as the finding suggest — arental consent to teenage drinking is also on the rise.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death in teens (approximately 3,000 per year). About one-third of those deadly accidents are alcohol related. Parents have to play an active role in preventing underage drinking. Talk to your kids before New Year’s celebrating begins and make sure they understand the importance of making smart, and possibly life-saving, decisions. And the consequences of not making smart decisions and deciding to drink and drive, or be in the car with a driver who is drunk.
According to 2012 survey findings by Students Against Destructive Decisions, parents have become more accepting of alcohol by their teenage children compared to 2010 and 2011 data. Despite more than 150 cities and counties and 24 states adopting laws which hold social hosts liable for serving alcohol to minors, nearly half (47 percent) of teens are allowed by their parents to go to parties where alcohol is served and 15 percent say they are allowed to host parties with alcohol. Additionally, 37 percent say they are allowed to drink when their parents are present and 29 percent report they are allowed to drink unsupervised.
Some adults have a “been there, done that” mindset when it comes to the issue of impaired driving among teens. Yet, research points out that a majority of their children know that this is a timely and important issue. In recent findings from a Novato survey – 72 percent of seventh graders talk to their parents about drugs and alcohol, but by ninth grade that number drops in half!
Starting the Conversation
The good news is that teens know when to speak up. Eighty-seven percent of surveyed teens will ask a driver under the influence of alcohol to refrain from driving, if they are not themselves, under the influence. This demonstrates that teens can understand the negative consequences of unsafe driving and aren’t afraid to ask drivers to stop their risky behavior. Equally important 92 percent of teen drivers would say they would stop driving under the influence if asked by a passenger to do so. Indicating that there is even more of an opportunity for teens to encourage safe behaviors among their friends.
The best thing a parent can do is have an open and ongoing conversation with their children about the consequences of drinking and driving. Talking through the dangers of reckless decisions and help your kids understand the conversation isn’t punitive, it’s preventative. Developing a Parent/Teen driving contract is also an opportunity to create lifelong safe driving habits. Parents need to make sure they are modeling responsible driving behaviors themselves. In 2009, 14 percent of the children age 14 and younger who were killed in motor vehicle crashes were killed in alcohol-impaired crashes. The number of children who sustained injuries because of a parent or caregiver under the influence of alcohol is drastically higher.
Start out the New Year with a new resolution and talk to your kids about the dangers of alcohol use and drinking and driving.
The mission of the Novato Blue Ribbon Coalition for Youth is to positively impact the well being of Novato youth through community action, policy advocacy and education. This shall be accomplished by:
- 1. Reducing alcohol and marijuana use, and
- 2. Reducing incidences of bullying.