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

(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.

Except.

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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