Driving Under the Influence

A 2007 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistic indicates that nearly half of all teenagers drank alcohol in the past month. And of these teens, as many as half were “binge drinking,” having consumed five or more drinks in one sitting. When you put these figures together with the fact that teenage drivers are four times more likely to experience a motor vehicle collision than older drivers, and that 23 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal automobile accidents had been drinking prior to the crash, you will understand how many teens underestimate the seriousness of driving under the influence of alcohol.

What’s more, many teens have driven under the influence of drugs, too. In fact, about one in six high school seniors in the United States have driven under the influence of marijuana.

Both drugs and alcohol affect a driver’s alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time. This may impair his ability to judge things like distance or how long it will take to slow the car down when hitting the brakes. Drugs and alcohol also may influence reaction to signals and sounds on the road, or make it difficult to coordinate steering and braking.

What To Do
Before your child begins driving, discuss the risks and responsibilities involved with having a license, especially those regarding using drugs and alcohol while driving. Set clear rules for behavior, and also discuss the importance of not getting into a car with another person who has been using these substances.

Many parents find that a contract detailing rules and repercussions works well with teenagers. It’s a good idea to agree with your child beforehand that he must call if he can’t get a safe ride home from a party or event, even if he has been using substances himself, and that you will not yell at him for doing so. Most importantly, follow through with any consequences (such as limited driving or no driving for a period of time) for breaking the rules.