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Drunk Driving: 5 Tips to Effectively Scare the Crap Out of Your Teen

By joslyngray |

(Photo Credit: iStock)

I’m sure your teen won’t be getting wasted this St. Patrick’s Day. Also, I know your teen is a good kid, and would certainly never drive after having a few beers.


Someone’s teens are getting wasted, aren’t they? And someone’s teens are driving drunk. According to Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD),

Nearly three quarters of students (72%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school, and more than a third (37%) have done so by eighth grade.

So, actually, if you think your teen isn’t drinking alcohol, there’s a 72% chance you’re out of your mind.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), many of those who drink underage also drive after drinking.

Fifteen percent of students in grades 9–12 (ages 15–18) surveyed in 1995 reported driving after drinking during the month before being surveyed, and more than one-third reported riding with a driver who had been drinking.

The numbers are even worse for college students, when binge drinking becomes a larger problem. 44 percent of college students reported binge drinking at least once during the 2 weeks before being surveyed, and about 19 percent reported frequent binge drinking (i.e., binge drinking three or more times during the 2 weeks prior to the survey). Drinking and driving during the 30 days before the survey was reported by more than 60 percent of the men and by almost 50 percent of the women who were frequent binge drinkers, compared with 20 percent of the men and 13 percent of the women who were non-binge drinkers.

In 1995 law enforcement agencies made nearly 15,000 DUI arrests of persons under age 18. In 66 percent of these arrests, the youth was 17 years old, and in 3 percent the youth was under age 15. Juveniles arrested for DUI were disproportionately male (84 percent) and white (91 percent).

Given that plenty of adults will be out swilling green beer today, it’s probably a good time to talk to your teen about the perils of drinking and driving. Here are a few points you may want to mention, boiled down with a take-home message teens can wrap their hormone-addled brains around:

This week a 17-year-old boy was banned from driving for life by a Rhode Island judge. The teen had been at a party where alcohol was consumed, and then drove his car into a tree. His three passengers were injured, and one was in a coma for months. Take-home message: You know what’s worse than asking your mom for a ride home from a party? Asking your mom for a ride for the rest of your life. Also, you know who girls don’t like to date? Guys who have had their licenses taken away for life.

The costs associated with a DUI offense are astronomical. In this terrific blog post by Maryland attorney Bruce Godfrey, the financial damage of a DUI is laid out in ways I had never even thought of. Add up the totals for bail money, court fees, a lawyer, probation fees, court-ordered alcohol counseling, insurance deductibles, lawsuits, medical care, and more, and it’s dizzying.  Take-home message: You can hope to have your finances straightened out some time in your late 30s. Say good-bye to iPods, concerts, cell phones, and clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch. p.s. When your mom drives you on your dates, you’ll be taking the girl to McDonald’s.

You will get caught. Pretty much every cop in the nation will be out today, looking for your drunk ass. But even on non-holidays, you will get caught. Want proof? Check out how this 18-year-old girl’s mug shots look worse and worse as she’s arrested three times in 17 days for driving under the influence. The second and third DUIs came before her first hearing even happened. Take-home message: your driving sucks when you drink, and someone will notice you weaving all over the place.

Guess whose alcohol-monitoring bracelet this is! I know...the orange tan gives it away, doesn't it?

Sobriety bracelets are wicked ugly. Note how even with Lindsay Lohan’s orange tan, there’s nothing slimming about a court-ordered alcohol monitoring bracelet.  Take-home message: nothing ruins your prom look like a big, plastic, court-ordered cankle.

You cannot be awesome when you’re dead. Seeing so many celebrity mug shots on TMZ seems to normalize or even glamorize driving under the influence. Point out that Jackass star Ryan Dunn isn’t enjoying his stardom now that he and his passenger, Zachary Hartwell, are both dead. Take-home message: frankly, your Facebook memorial tribute page is going to look really lame compared to Ryan Dunn’s. Better to just stay alive.

Not sure how to start the conversation with your kid? Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) offers tips on talking to your teen about drinking.

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About joslyngray



Joslyn Gray is the mother of four children with a variety of challenges ranging from allergies to ADHD to Asperger Syndrome. She writes candidly and comedically about this and her generally hectic life on her light-hearted personal blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy.. Read bio and latest posts → Read joslyngray's latest posts →

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10 thoughts on “Drunk Driving: 5 Tips to Effectively Scare the Crap Out of Your Teen

  1. Sunday Stilwell says:

    Thank you so much for covering this topic Jocelyn! I know far too many people who have lost loved ones due to the recklessness of a drunk driver. My own grandmother was killed by one a month before I was born.

    My friend Bruce Godfrey, who you cited in this post, lost his best friend (along with his friend’s brother, his wife and their infant daughter).

  2. Bruce Godfrey says:

    Joslyn thank you kindly for the link and kind words – let’s hope this is a safe year!

  3. Donkeys To College says:

    Awesome and fabulous!!! Planning to post on both my kids FB walls.

  4. MommySarah says:

    Why don’t we just make the legal drinking age 16, and then change the legal DRIVING age to 18 or 21….That way teens will get all the ‘ooohh, im being rebellious by getting drunk” phase out of their systems BEFORE they are allowed to get their licenses! …*facepalm*
    This is how it is done in Europe, and they don’t have NEARLY as many drunk-driving related accidents and deaths as we do in America….hmmmm… about some logic, folks…

    Here’s the deal parents:

    Teens ARE going to drink. ESPECIALLY if you make a huuuge deal about how bad it is, and by nagging and lecturing to “not try alcohol because a ton of bad things will happen”…all you are doing is putting alcohol on a pedestal, and making your teen want to try it even more! ….think about it…The best thing to do is to just be absolutly honest about the effects of alcohol, and if they are THAT curious about it, buy a nice bottle of Jose or Jack Daniel’s, and let them have at it! Take some shots,kid, see how ya feel in the morning!
    I guarantee that your honesty, and the fact that you let them experiment under YOUR SUPERVISION will gain you wayyyy more RESPECT from your teen, than just a lecture and reading them a list of all the “Scary and bad things that will happen if u try alcohol.”
    Because I promise you this, parents, whether you KNOW it or NOT, your teenager will at some point drink alcohol. It is MUCH safer to just let them try it under YOUR supervision, than out at a random party where a bunch of kids are drinking, where your daughter is more likely to get raped, or your son is more likely to get in the car and go race with his friends… Honesty is ALWAYS the best policy when raising teens… And try to remember when YOU were their age….The WORST thing you could possibly do is be a hypocrite!!!!

    ****Just my personal opinion on the subject, and this is how my husband and I plan on raising our son when the time comes, and he has questions about experimenting with alcohol and drugs. We are just going to be brutally honest, and if he REALLY wants to try alcohol, or smoke some pot, I would MUCH rather him do it under my supervision, rather than out in the streets where SOOOO many terrible situations can occur…at least if something happened, I would be there to help him immediatly, instead of getting a phone call from the hospital or the police station….. Please DO NOT think or take from this that I ENCOURAGE underage drinking or doing drugs at ALL. I just know how teenagers are, and it’s best to just accept the FACT that kids WILL experiment, and not try to pretend that YOUR kid is different, and be in denial. Being in denial about your teen is far more dangerous than ANYTHING.


  5. Linda, T.O.O. says:

    “I’m sure your teen won’t be getting wasted this St. Patrick’s Day. Also, I know your teen is a good kid, and would certainly never drive after having a few beers.” Is it still “being in denial” if it’s true? My teen (and 15 of her other teenaged friends) were competeing in a sporting event and all their parents were in attendance. I always find the assumption that people have no clue what their teens are doing to be super annoying.

  6. Kate says:

    Maybe some or even most parents know what their teen is doing most of the time… But all of it? I feel inclined to agree with the author that it’s naive to think you know what they are doing all of the time. I didn’t drink much as a teenager in high school but you can be sure the few times I did, my mother didn’t know. I certainly wouldn’t say I was a bad kid or did a lot of things my mom didn’t know about but it’s very safe to say that she didn’t know everything. Don’t get me wrong, as a parent now it terrifies me to think that someday all too soon my kids will be out and about in their own, I just think its better to assume that they may not always do what we want them to and take actions to make sure they know what to do in those situations. Like “call your mom/dad/guardian to get you from a party rather than let your drunk friend or drunk self drive you home”

  7. Brittney says:

    I’d just like to say that I never tried alcohol until I was 20 and my boyfriend at the time put me in situations where I felt like I had to try it just to be accepted with his friends. I’ll be 22 tomorrow and I don’t really drink at all. I don’t like alcohol in the least. So there are people that never drank as teens. I felt like my classmates that did drink were completely stupid, especially when I heard about them taking their parents’ medicine (including Viagra) and mixed it with alcohol. I saw the way my classmates acted, the trouble they got it, how they set themselves up for failure, and I didn’t want to be a part of it. Now a lot of the same people are either pregnant, married with kids, or at a community college. Whereas for me, I am about to graduate college on time and attend the number one ranked school in my field of study in the fall to get a Master’s degree.

  8. Heather says:

    @MommySarah – well said!

  9. :) says:

    @ MommySarah: Are you crazy? Do you realize that kids brains are not even fully devoloped bythe age of 16? THERE ARE REASONS FOR THE AGE THEY HAVE NOW! Here is an idea…your child drinks that young…KICK THIER ASS! Also, do you know that if you allow your child to drink or do drugs…and word gets out…YOU can go to jail…its unfortunate because I would rather my child do it with me also so I know they are “somewhat” being safe but you have to think about all of it…not just the small factors.

  10. Amanda says:

    I had the kind of father that would let me do what ever I wanted. I was drinking at age 13 and didn’t think anything of it. I partied like the adults in my dads family did. I’m now almost 22 and barely ever drink. Seeing how my family is, I will never let me child drink like I did. When your younger, not only is your brain not developed, your organs can’t handle it. And your child should have respect for you and your decisions no matter what. When you allow your child to drink in your home, coming from my own personal experiance, many children will think its ok to drink out with friends, because you allow it at home. If your childs interested, have them talk to someone who’s struggled with drinking their whole lives. Have them talk to a parent that’s lost a child due to drinking and driving. Yes honesty is the best policy but you can be honest without doing something that may or may not harm a child.

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