Not many people agree or acknowledge that underage drinking is a major cause of fatal crashes among drivers under 21. Some individuals do not believe that underage drinking is a national concern, even if the statistics tell them that it is.
More or less 20% of teenage drivers involved in fatal accidents and crashes test positive for alcohol consumption. Thousands of teens under 21 years old die every year due to car crashes, a significant number of which involve teen drunk driving. In 2019, over 400,000 teens aged 12 to 17 had alcohol use disorder. People with AUD cannot control their alcohol use even if they know the consequences awaiting them. These prove that underage drinking and driving is a major national concern.
If you are a parent whose teen is about to start driving, you have to find time to talk to your young driver. It’s important to prepare him or her for the responsibilities that come with a driver’s license. There are terms like DUI, BAC, and install ignition interlock device that your teen needs to familiarize. More than anything, though, you need to help him or her understand the consequences of underage drunk driving.
Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Teens
Alcohol is a depressant, so no matter how much one consumes, it can still affect a person’s coordination, sound judgment, vision, and reaction. The effect is magnified in teens. Even if they do not drink as frequently as adults do, they consume more on every occasion. Additionally, they are more susceptible to risks even with low or moderate BAC (blood alcohol concentration).
Without proper coordination, underage drunk drivers cannot control their hands, feet, and eyes. They also cannot control the way their brain works. They are not alert enough. As such, they cannot determine whether they or other drivers are going too fast or if they are too close to other cars, pedestrians, and objects.
Drowsiness is another effect of alcohol, and it can lead to distracted driving. It is risky not only for the teen driver but also for the passengers and the people and other cars on the road.
What You Can Do as a Parent
Talk to your teen about drunk driving laws
Discuss drunk driving laws with your teen, and let him or her know what the consequences are for underage DUI (driving under the influence). The following are some of the most vital points to specify:
- Drunk driving laws are implemented throughout the country. Some vary from state-to-state, but the core laws are the same nationwide.
- The laws consider a BAC of over 0.08% as illegal. However, all states exercise zero tolerance on all teen drunk drivers (under 21 years old). So, any amount of alcohol in their system is illegal.
- Sobriety checkpoints are often installed in certain places. These are intended to help determine if a driver is impaired or intoxicated.
- Those who are or have been convicted of drunk driving are required to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles. Without one, they are not allowed to drive. An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer used to detect alcohol in the driver’s breath. It will prohibit the car from starting if it detects even the smallest amount.
- The legal penalties of teen DUI include probation, fines, possible jail time, confiscation of driver’s license, and alcohol education facilitated by a treatment professional.
Underage DUI may have a long-term impact on your teen, too, which means it can affect his or her future. Some cases result in expulsion from school or some punishment of the same magnitude. Teens with underage DUI conviction may also have difficulty getting into college or qualifying for scholarships. Likewise, applying for a decent job can be challenging as most companies do background checks on their applicants.
Lastly, let your teen know the financial implications of underage DUI. You’ll have to pay fines and fees, insurance, alcohol education, towing fees (if applicable), medical expenses (your teens and those of other victims), and car repair.
Come up with a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement
The Parent-Teen Driving Agreement will help your teen understand the most vital elements of drunk driving – the rules, consequences, what to avoid, safety and maintenance, and other relevant details. It also puts into writing a set of road rules for your teen and everyone in the family. It specifies limits and expectations.
Parent-Teen Driving Agreement forms are available online. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement and New Driver Deal form that you can download from their website.
Consider Graduated Driver Licensing programs
GDL or Graduated Driver Licensing programs are offered in several states. It helps underage or young drivers obtain enough experience in driving before they can enjoy full driving privileges. It has three phases: learner (supervised driving), intermediate (limited unsupervised driving), and full privilege (full licensing with no restrictions unless necessary).
Law-enforced restrictions are followed throughout the program.
The goal of GDL is to help minimize the risk of fatal car crashes and accidents among teen drivers.
Aside from the tips mentioned above, you should also set up an appointment with a DUI lawyer who can help introduce and educate your teen about the dangers and legal implications of underage drunk driving – and drunk driving in general.
About the Author
Lauren McDowell is the Content Marketing Strategist for Interlock Install, a Phoenix-based company that performs the installations, service appointments, and removals for ADS Interlock. When not writing, she attends book clubs and enjoys reading stories to her kids