Published on June 25, 2024

Tips to Prevent Teen Drunk Driving

Thousands of teens are killed each year in the U.S. in motor vehicle accidents, and alcohol is often a major contributing factor. The summer months of June, July, and August see an over 50% average increase in drunk driving teenage fatalities.

Below are some steps you can take to keep your children safe and prevent them from having their future impacted by the negative consequences of drunk driving.

Educate Them About the Risks

One of the best things you can do for your teenager is to have an open and mature dialogue about the risks of alcohol and other substance abuse. There is often a great deal of stigma and fear around the topic, which can many parents hesitant to talk about it. However, establishing yourself as a safe, reliable adult to come to with questions, concerns, or fears around alcohol will help keep the dialogue open and supportive.

Talk to your teens about the realities of alcohol and drug use. Ultimately, they should learn the facts and statistics from you instead of their peers or people who don’t have their best interests at heart. Talk about what to do in situations where they’re uncomfortable, how to say no, and what to do about alcohol-using peers. And remind them that they should never get into a vehicle where the driver is impaired, and this includes from using pills or from vaping. Make it clear to your teen that there is absolutely no safe level of alcohol consumption when it comes to operating a motor vehicle.

Encourage Alternative Activities

Boredom can contribute to young people drinking and using illicit substances during the summer. Lack of structure can often lead to poor decision-making and questionable recreational activities.

Help your teenager find fun, safe, sober alternatives to drinking and partying. Sporting events, basketball courts, skate parks, arcades, malls, restaurants, and coffee shops are some examples of settings where teens will not be openly drinking or using drugs.

Encouraging good social networks and providing them the resources they need to participate in healthy activities is one of the best things you can do to avoid alcohol and drunk driving situations.

Set Boundaries and Expectations

The teenage years are tough because while your teen may feel ready to start gaining independence and freedom, they still lack the wisdom and discernment to make the best choices. This is where you, as a parent, have to enforce boundaries around the kinds of people they can spend time with.

Curfews, rules about certain friends and peer groups, and limits on where your child can go may be necessary to keep them safe during summer. Your child may not like these restrictions, but they are often ultimately in their best interest and can help prevent exposure to things like drunk driving and unsafe substance behaviors. You can work with your teenager to build trust and develop systems to check in and ensure they get social time with peers in controlled and safe ways.

Some tips for setting healthy boundaries with your teen:

  • Be firm in your expectations of behavior they are and aren’t allowed to engage in, such as where they can go and how late they can stay out
  • Meet their friends and have an idea of who they are spending time with
  • Use the “share my location” feature on your phone, or a parent/child location app like Life360 so you know where they are at all times

Teach Them to Handle a Crisis

Even if you do your best as a parent to prepare your child for environments where drugs and alcohol are being abused, you never know what may happen. While you hope that your teenager will never be in a situation where they are abusing alcohol, it’s better to have a safety plan and be prepared.

Some ideas to keep your teen prepared and safe when they go out with friends and peers:

  • Ensure they always have their cell phone and that it’s charged so they can contact you. Encourage them to memorize your number.
  • Teach them to call the authorities and use 911 if necessary. Instruct them that it’s better to be safe than sorry if they feel like they’re in a dangerous situation.
  • Instruct them on how to be firm and set solid and nonnegotiable boundaries with others. Teach them to value their safety over being polite.
  • Confirm they have cash on hand if they need to take a taxi or find some alternative transportation.

Lastly, always be an open line of support and a lifeline in the event of a crisis. Remind your teen that while there may be consequences for drug and alcohol behaviors, you will always help them if they find themselves in a dangerous situation. Teens often get behind the wheel or in a car with an impaired driver to avoid disappointing or angering their parents. Part of building a healthy alliance with your teen is making sure that they know they can trust you and come to you, no matter what.

Reach Out Today

When it comes to educating your teenagers about the risks of drinking and driving, you can never be too prepared. Talk with them early and often, teach them about the realities of impaired driving, and provide alternative recreational summer activities to fill their days. And most importantly, let them know you’re always a lifeline and safe resource should they wind up in a dangerous situation.

If you need assistance connecting with your teenager and want to address their substance abuse with a trained substance abuse counselor and you live in the San Diego area, contact Confidential Recovery today.

About the Author

Scott H. Silverman is a high-profile expert on addiction and recovery, making frequent public and media appearances for the last 40 years. He is the author of The Opioid Epidemic and the Founder and CEO of Confidential Recovery, a San Diego substance abuse treatment center specializing in helping Veterans and First Responders get and stay sober.

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