December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, and for good reason. Every year, alcohol-related crashes account for an increased number of deaths between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. For hundreds of families, the holiday season turns from celebration to tragedy in an instant, and every year following will be marked by mourning rather than joy.
Preventing impaired driving needs to be a priority in every family with teen drivers. This is not to say that only teens get into drunk driving crashes, but parents have the unique opportunity to instill the values and convictions in their children that will help them make a lifetime commitment against impaired driving.
Talk to Your Teen About Impaired Driving Directly and Clearly
Parents avoid talking about drinking and driving with their teens for many reasons. Some are afraid that the discussion will make their teen think that the parent is encouraging drinking. Some parents think that there’s no reason to discuss it because their teen doesn’t drink, and the conversation might send mixed signals about that. Others just think their teen already knows better than to drink and drive.
Whatever is causing you to avoid the topic as a parent, it’s time to get beyond it and have this talk. Your child knows far more about alcohol than you might imagine whether or not they use it themselves. They are learning about these things from other people, so they should have your perspective as well. Parents simply must address impaired driving with their teens.
To help you prepare for these talks, please read our two-part blog series on How to Talk with Your Teen about Drinking & Driving. These articles will help you come to the table armed with good information. Remember, the idea is not just to talk to your teen about drinking and driving right now in this time of life. This is about helping them develop a specific ethic around alcohol use that empowers them to stand their ground and influence others.
Preventing impaired driving is really a mission to help people set a standard for themselves and the people they care about. It’s not a once and done talk. It’s an ongoing discussion of the real world impact of senseless and preventable tragedy. If even just a handful of teens this year make a commitment to prevent impaired driving and stick to it permanently, they will have a positive impact on several hundred people within their social influence over the next 15 years.
Make Resources Available to Help Your Teen Prevent Impaired Driving
It’s one thing to discuss the dangers of impaired driving, but there’s an application aspect to it as well. When your teen is at a party that involves drinking, and the moment of truth comes that a friend is about to get behind the wheel, what are your teen’s options?
Decision making is difficult when you’re under pressure, under the influence, or in an excited state. Your teen might not have a lot of time to think about what to do when faced with a potentially dangerous driving situation. There’s more to it than refusing to get in the car themselves or trying to talk the friend out of driving. Your child will need to have a solution that changes the situation entirely.
Rideshare apps are a huge resource in the battle against impaired driving. Make sure your teen has a reputable app on their phone, and make double extra sure that they know how to use it. When your teen needs to keep a friend from driving, they need to be able to respond quickly. If they know they can reliably get a sober driver to the scene quickly, they will be more successful.
It’s never fun to talk to your teen about the serious issues of drinking and driving, but your teen driver truly does need to know where you stand and what to expect from you when a situation arises. With the trust developed by open and honest communication, your teen is far more likely to call you when it really matters. If you need some non-parent reinforcement of safe driving practices like avoiding impaired driving, contact Safe Driving Coach for lessons. Our professional driving coaches will help your teen understand the seriousness of always driving without distractions or impairment.