Unfortunately, the stories about teens and drinking and driving that result in death are far too common. Despite ride-sharing apps or the option to call a parent or friend, these avoidable deaths continue to happen. You don’t have to look far, and you can find a friend or family member losing a loved one to teen drinking and driving, and for students and teens, getting behind the wheel after a few drinks is far too tempting.
The worst part is that most of these tragedies are preventable, and lives can be saved by taking the pledge not to drink, awareness, and not getting into the car with someone who has consumed alcohol. As a parent, we want to equip you with information to help save your child from becoming another statistic.
There Are Less Drunk Drivers – But They’re Still A Problem
You’ll likely be overwhelmed when contending with the disturbing facts of teen drunk driving. Although teens who drink and drive have dropped by 54 percent since the early 90s, which is excellent news, high school teens are still estimated to drink and drive more than two million times a month. Teen drunk drivers cause 17 percent of fatal alcohol-related crashes, despite there only being 10 percent of drivers under the age of 21.
In 2017, there were 10,874 drunk driving deaths, and 17 percent of them were caused by teen drunk driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This translates to 1,848 fatal accidents at the hands of teen drunk drivers.
It begs the question of how these deaths can be prevented and spare families the pain of losing their children due to senseless accidents. The only solution is to prevent underage drinking and stiffen penalties for those who contribute to the delinquency of a minor.
Causes of Teen Drunk Driving
Despite knowing the dangers of teens drinking and driving, it continues to happen. Even from a young age, our parents or guardians instilled into our heads the risks of getting into a car with someone who is drunk or driving yourself. With that said, you might wonder why teens continue to drink and drive.
Many teens are unaware of the extent of the consequences of drinking and driving. Much of it has to do with the development of their brains. Alcohol has serious side effects on the brain, and the effects are further amplified when it comes to one that’s developing. How does alcohol affect a teenage brain, and how does it lead to drinking and driving?
Adult and teenage brains respond differently to the consumption of alcohol. When an adult drinks, it’s not uncommon for them to experience short-term effects, including sleepiness or slurring of their words. Teens won’t experience these effects to the same extent, meaning they’ll feel like they’re okay to drive. It leads many teens to get behind the wheel of a car and put themselves or others at risk.
If you’ve consumed alcohol, you’ve probably made some poor choices. Unfortunately, you are not alone, and this is especially true for teens. Not only are they less likely to notice the short-term effects as an adult would, but they are also prone to lapses in judgment.
This poor judgment carries over to choosing whether or not to get behind the wheel of a vehicle or get in the car with someone drinking. These are extremely poor decisions.
No Impulse Control
Teens have poor impulse control, which is true even when they’re sober. You can imagine that their impulsive behavior worsens after consuming a bit of alcohol. The intoxicant suppresses the brain’s hormone in response to stress, and it can lead a teen to make poor decisions and not reacting to their surroundings quickly.
Loss of Coordination
Alcohol consumption causes a loss of coordination in adults and teens. Why? Alcohol affects the cerebellum directly, which is a part of the brain that controls balance, muscle coordination and helps in the creation of memories. When disrupting the cerebellum, alcohol will interrupt your body’s motor functions. When this happens, it’ll significantly affect your reaction time, the primary reason driving intoxicated is so dangerous.
In some cases, teens might wear “blacking out” like a badge of honor. Unfortunately, this is one of the scariest things that can happen when drinking. Blacking out and passing out are very different. When someone passes out, they’ll lose consciousness and become immobile. When you blackout, you’ll appear conscious but have zero recollection of the events that occurred.
It’s common for someone to blackout and carry on conversations with their peers or make decisions. However, they likely have no idea what they’re doing, which could lead to a teen getting behind the wheel without realizing it. Adolescents are more prone to blacking out than adults, meaning drinking as a teen is more dangerous than an adult.
How To Prevent Teens Drinking and Driving
A survey released in 2014 by the North Carolina ABC Commission found that two-thirds of middle school and high school-aged children knew a peer that tried alcohol. The same study describes most children will try alcohol for the first time by age 14, meaning the problems start earlier than most parents realize.
As adults, we must take the necessary precautions and arm ourselves with information to prevent this act. Naturally, teens are going to experiment, but you must have an open dialogue about the dangers. When you keep a teen informed about what alcohol can do, it’ll make them think twice about drinking and driving or getting into the car with someone who has.
Be The Example You Want Your Teen To See
At the end of the day, the responsibility of preventing teens from drinking and driving lies on the parent. Parents must be involved, and while your teen might not always show it, they’re fully aware of your actions and behaviors. It’s common for teens to imitate their parents’ actions and behaviors, so leading by example could prevent them from drinking and driving.
Some of the examples you can set as a parent for your teen are not drinking in excess at home or getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking. If you drink, practice restraint, and drink in moderation. When you do this, it sets the groundwork for smart decision making later on in their lives.
Most teens aren’t aware of the consequences of drinking or how it affects the brain. Setting examples at home and talking with them could be the difference between life and death.