It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: Your child has been hurt — or worse — in a car accident. If that fear resonates with you, chances are you’re also concerned about underage drinking.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter of those crashes involve an impaired driver who is younger than the legal drinking age, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. During the holidays, your teen may be at parties with drinking, which could lead to impaired driving with your child behind the wheel or in the vehicle.
Here are six ways to protect teens and their friends from drunken driving.
It’s easy to say “not my kid” when you consider the prevalence of underage drinking. The reality is the majority of teens will drink before they’re legally allowed. More than half of teens have had at least one drink by age 18, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In fact, teens consume 11 percent of all alcohol in the United States. Before school is out for winter break (and parties), set clear expectations about drinking, and outline the consequences of failing to meet them. Even if your child does not have a car or a license, drinking frequently accompanies risky behavior, so make sure your child knows where you stand.
Get it in writing
The teenage years are some of the most formative in your child’s life. That’s why it’s important to educate your teen on the dangers of drunk driving and encourage a lifetime commitment to avoiding it. Students Against Drunk Driving offers a free, downloadable contract your teen can sign as a pledge to never drink and drive. Make the contract a condition of going out to a Christmas party, and hang it in your teen’s room or another visible place.
Get your teen an Uber account
With the holidays here, teens will have more opportunities than ever to celebrate with friends. When alcohol is involved (and it often is), they should know there are alternatives to driving themselves home after a few drinks. Offer your teen access to your Uber or Lyft account to use when needed. If your teen doesn’t drive, this can be particularly important, as you don’t want your child going home with someone who’s had a few too many — or any at all.
Lock up the liquor
Having liquor readily available can make it that much easier for your teen to drink. Almost all 12- to 14-year-olds who drink alcohol get it free, many at home, according to NIAAA. If you have alcohol at home, particularly as you prepare for your own New Year's Eve or other holiday parties, keep it in a place inaccessible to your children, like a locked cabinet or closet. Talk to the parents of your child’s friends where they store their liquor, as the second most common place for teens to get alcohol is in their friends’ homes.
Avoid the roads
Inexperienced driving can be dangerous. Combine that inexperience with other drivers who may be impaired, and a night out can lead to tragedy. Certain times during the holidays pose a greater risk to all drivers, including Dec. 23 and Jan. 1, according to safemotorist.com. Local events, like high school dance after parties, can also mean the roads are filled with inexperienced — and possibly drinking — drivers. Make a deal with your teen that you will always be available to give a ride, no matter what.
Stay home for the holidays
Speaking of keeping an eye on your teen, two of the year's most dangerous driving days are coming up, and there is no place like home for the holidays. Rather than worrying about your teen driving, host holiday celebrations in your home. This allows you to monitor any drinking and who might need a ride home.