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There are few things that strike more fear into the heart of a parent than the thought of their teenager being involved in an alcohol-related car accident. When your teen starts driving, they can feel a new-found sense of independence that can lead them into trouble. Though the laws in the United States have set the legal drinking age at 21, it’s a sad fact of life that many of them have their first drink long before then.
Parties in high school or during the first years of college often encourage underage drinking and worse, getting behind the wheel. Even the smartest kids can make stupid decisions occasionally. Teenage drunk driving has scary consequences no matter where you live. In Florida, for example, if your teen is charged with a DUI it can lead to jail time and license suspensions. With your kid’s future at stake, it’s easy to see why having “the talk” with them sooner rather than later is so necessary. By following a few practical suggestions, you can prepare your teen for the road ahead.
Start The Drinking / Driving Convo Before They Can Drive
The group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says that nearly 11,000 Americans will die this year from drunk driving crashes. That’s almost one every 50 minutes. Additionally, it’s estimated that one person is injured from a drunk driving related crash every sixty seconds. With statistics as rampant as they are in the United States, there’s no need to wait until your teen is actually driving to start a conversation about alcohol use and abuse.
When your child enters high school, start talking about the potential of getting in a car with a driver who has been drinking. Discuss ideas on how they can deal with it, and also talk about peer pressure and what they can do to avoid those who are drinking before the legal age. By setting standards early, you’re more likely to lay the groundwork for your teen not going down the wrong path.
Educate Yourself On The Laws
For example, “the state of Florida breaks DUI vehicular accidents into three levels of severity: injury, serious bodily injury and, when death is involved, manslaughter. A conviction for DUI-related serious bodily injury is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in jail and $5,000 fine. DUI/manslaughter is a second-degree felony in Florida, carrying with it a fine of up to $10,000 and 15 years in jail.” With statues like this, it’s always best practice to be safe than sorry and know your laws ahead of time.
Show Your Support
Though the drinking talk is hard, it’s a discussion you must have and important that your child feel that they can come to you without judgment or fear of punishment. Let your teen know that you will always come and get them or send a taxi with no questions asked. Underline that their safety is more important to you then punishing them.
Though obviously, you might have to have a talk about driving privileges should this happen, letting your teenager know that the door is always open helps them to feel more comfortable with asking for your help when they need it.
Lead by Example
If you truly want to make an impact on your child’s behavior, it’s important that you lead by example. Make a point of not drinking any alcohol if you are out for dinner and it’s your turn to drive even when you’re on vacation.
Starting this at an early age will set your child up to know that this is the right thing to do. Explain to your teen that even one drink can impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle. Set a standard for your family and follow it.
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.