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How to Talk with Your Teen About Drinking & Driving: Part 2

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

This is our second blog post about talking with teens about drinking and driving. If you haven’t yet, be sure to read our first post which covers suggestions for starting this crucial conversation with your teen.

Mom sitting with teenage son

As parents, we realize that sometimes, regardless of how much we educate our children prior to parties and hangouts, there will always be moments of confusion and lack in judgement. We all know what it’s like being an excited but sometimes reckless teenager. If underage drinking does occur when you are not present, you need to ensure your teen understands the options available when faced with transportation.

Planning for the Possibility

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility recently published a series of current Underage Drinking Statistics. In 2019, “about 7.05 million Americans between the ages of 12 and 20 report current alcohol consumption.” They also wrote how “though progress is being made, underage drinking remains a persistent problem.”

There may come a time when you receive a phone call in the middle of the night. In this moment, you’ll feel a full range of emotions; from disappointment to frustration to fear. However, your child needs to know you are going to be available to come pick them up without facing anger, at least not right away.

If they are worried about your reaction, they might hesitate to call you, resulting in the “no big deal” mentality, and try to make it home themselves. Your teen needs to know beforehand how they will be met with judgment-free assistance in order to get home the safest way possible. If you suspect your child is attending an occasion where there might be drinking involved, make sure they are aware you are a trusted option at the end of the night.

This doesn’t mean that you will overlook what happened or that there won’t be consequences. Those discussions can come the following day.

Setting Expectations

Depending on your personal parenting style, you might allow your teen to drink at home or at supervised family occasions. While underage drinking is illegal, we know that “just at home” drinking is common. If this pertains to your household, it’s important to explain to your teen the differences between a family party surrounded by trusted adults, and a party full of teens who might not consider their safety a priority. You need to be sure to set realistic expectations with your teen. Make sure they understand not only the clear distinction but also the risks involved with their transportation safety. And as always, make sure you are leading by example at family gatherings.

It’s also important to note how as your teen ages and turns 21, they are still at risk. In fact, it might be more risky once they are legally allowed to drink. They may no longer be new drivers, but they are still in need of safety reminders. Remember to reiterate to your young adults how even though it’s legal for them to drink, it doesn't mean it’s legal to drink and drive.

Additional Resources

If you found this blog helpful, then I encourage you to visit the links below to find more statistics, videos, guides, and even an online course! I hope these resources assist with your further research as you seek to teach your new teen driver to be as smart and safe on the road as possible!

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility has an in-depth website full of detailed statistics and research. It also includes a thorough and organized list of discussion topics for children of all ages regarding alcohol in your family, and helpful resources to aid parents in these challenging conversations. Some of the article topics include:

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has created several marketing campaigns against drunk driving which can be additional helpful resources for your family during these discussions. Click the links below to learn more:

If you’re looking for more guidance on how to help your teen become a safe, responsible driver, you can check out more resources from Safe Driving Coach:

Learn more about The Parent's Survival Guide for New Teen Drivers


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