DUIs and America’s Teens – How Bad Is It Really and What We Need to Do.

Being an American teenager should be a time of excitement, healthy exploration, the building of moral values, education and just having fun, but being an adolescent in the U.S. can be a challenge. Enthusiasm, the grasp of new freedoms, hormones, inexperience and the desperate desire to fit in can sometimes overpower common sense. Over the last decade the rise in teen drunk driving has drastically increased leading concerned parents to struggle in how to cope, what to do to intervene and how to stress the importance of sobriety in their teens.
Sadly, recent surveys conducted with American teens have shown that almost half (49%) of binge drinking occurs within teen circles. While teen drivers represent a smaller percentage of the overall U.S. driving population, 6.4% of the 19.4 millions drivers, teens represent a disproportionately large portion of roadway accidents. Additionally, the leading cause of death for teens between the ages of 15 – 20 is a car accident and sadly, 31% of this total represents those involved in alcohol related accidents.

These are alarming statistics for our young drivers. Specialized agencies are cropping up all over the U.S. to determine a realistic plan of action to education and involve teens in the fight against teen drinking and driving. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious infraction, yet teens, empowered by alcohol, immaturity, peer pressure and impaired judgment, seem to be ignoring the severity and consequences of drunk driving. In addition to putting the lives of themselves and others on the road at risk, there are seriously criminal consequences that must be addressed. Parents of teens who receive a DUI can expect:

• An increase or denial of insurance coverage
• Seizure of the vehicle
• The suspension or loss of a drivers license
• Jail
• Fines up to $25,000
• Community service
• Probation

Modern society has increased the pressure on teens. The desire and yearning to be successful at home and in school, while also retaining one’s self-image all while holding a specific standard amongst friends and peers has become vital in a teen’s world. Social drinking has stepped on in the ranks of coolness, and many teens are avoiding common sense and participating in the dangerous and perilous world of underage drinking. 1 out of every 10 children from ages 13 – 14 drink at least once a month. During the last year, over 522 14 year old teenagers were arrested for drunk driving. Furthermore, 70% of teenagers admit to drinking on a semi-consistent basis.

With all the alarming statistics, what can a parent do to cope against drunk driving and instruct their children on the serious dangers of alcohol use? The first step is to be involved in your child’s life. Ask questions; inquire where they are going and what they are doing. Ask about friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, and extracurricular activates. Teens are going to emulate their environments. Creating a stable, loving and supportive environment can help combat with negative peer pressure. Encourage their involvement in healthy, positive school activities like athletics and school club and be drawn in to their lives and activities at school. Ask about classes, teacher, homework assignments and be proactive in encouraging constructive behaviors. Parent’s who know more about their teen’s activities, friends and the things they enjoy participating in are less likely to have teens that drink and drive. Being involved in community based anti-drinking programs can also be beneficial.

Get your teen involved and encourage them to stand up for the right thing. Engage them and get them excited about having a purpose and standing for something positive they can believe in. Encourage your teen’s freedom, but set specific limits and boundaries about behaviors and activities. Be very clear about the dangers and rules concerning alcohol use. Talk straight to your teen and encourage them to talk with you; create an environment of trust and support. Teens will be more likely to open up and discuss their lives with you.
One of the best prevention methods against teens and drunk driving is to be a constant representation of positive behavior yourself. Teens are going to emulate your behavior, and while friends and peer pressure are very crucial aspects of a teens life, constructive home life improves affirmative action outside of the home. Don’t let your teen become another heart-breaking statistic! Be proactive and learn to be the voice of encouragement and stability in your teen’s life.