Posts Tagged ‘Teenage Driving’

One quarter of our teens are alcohol abusers by the time they leave high school. They are teens whose drinking habits produce poor work, excessive absenteeism from work or school, and complaints from friends and family. Alcohol-related accidents remain one of the biggest killers of sons and daughters until they pass college age.

Often a parent first discovers a teenage drinking problem on the morning after:

“Boy, do I feel terrible this morning!”

“Are you sick? What did you have when you were out last night?”

“Ah, just the same old stuff.”

“Todd, you must have had something different from the same old stuff.”

It will probably turn out that Todd was tempted by a few beers for short-term fun and now he has the day-after long-term misery.

Looking beyond the short- to the long-term consequences is one measure of growing up. Even parents can have trouble looking ahead to drinking problems:

“Let him have a little beer, what harm can it do?”

“As long as it’s in the house and nobody is going to drive, it’s OK.”

Drinking habits often produce strange excuses: “I couldn’t help it, I was drunk” is a common teenage misunderstanding of responsibility.

Traffic laws don’t excuse the drunk driver of responsibility and often teens don’tseem to understand that drunkenness is not an excuse for stupidity; it is stupidity. Nevertheless the most common excuse a teenage girl gives for getting pregnant remains, “I was drunk.”

But drinking and driving remains the most dangerous part. All parents dread that terrible phone call in the middle of the night: “This is Officer Jones of the West Virginia State Police, your son has been…”

While teens make up only 6.9 percent of the driving population, they account for 13 percent of the alcohol-related fatal crashes. In 2003, expect 17,000 deaths nationwide due to drunk driving. About 350 will be from West Virginia and 40 of those will be teenagers.

West Virginia’s legal limit of blood alcohol that defines DUI is now set at .10 percent. While our state ranks fifth with 8.24 alcohol-related traffic deaths per 100,000 population each year, our legislature refuses to lower the limit to .08 percent as most states require. Even that’s equivalent to four shots of hard liquor within one hour on an empty stomach, but our legislators evidently feel that is all right for drivers coming down the road at you.

What can parents do?

First, stay informed, on every occasion, about how your son or daughter is going to get home from a party or other activity.

Second, disallow all social events with alcohol.

Third, support and respect the laws concerning drinking and driving and the officers who enforce them – the next car they stop, just in time, may have one of yours inside.

Strict laws do work as I found out during a celebration with my wife’s large family in Norway. Her cousin accidentally picked up her husband’s wine glass by mistake and touched it to her lips. Her face showed near terror as she realized what she had almost done! She was the designated driver for her part of the family that evening and, in Norway, the road blocks and breath tests for any alcohol consumption are almost inescapable.

In the Norwegian courts, any evidence of alcohol and the automatic fine is two months salary! That can’t be brushed off even by the wealthy. Results of behavioral tests and blood levels determine the jail sentence (up to one year) to be added to the fine. The law is strict and drinking and driving is very rare compared to the U.S.

Our legislators have a responsibility to provide an effective law beyond unenforceable suspensions and trivial fines manipulated by DUI lawyers.

Some will say their freedom to judge their own drinking and driving is more important than a few deaths, but they are wrong and we should say so.

It only shows a prejudice against the young to crow about getting tough with teens because of their 14% of the drunk driving fatalities and then wring our hands and coddling the adults responsible for the other 86%.

Copy, fax, mail, or e-mail your support of more strict drinking and driving laws to your legislators today. Send your elected judges the message that enforcing the drinking laws will get your vote.


Dr. McIntire is the author of Teenagers and Parents: 10 Steps to a Better Relationship and Raising Good Kids in Tough Times: 7 Crucial Habits for Parent Success. Contact him through Parentsuccess.com.



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            Epidemic hits high schoolers! Death rate quadruples among 16-year-olds! No immunity in sight. Medical community has no shot that will help.

            All your efforts to protect your teen from childhood diseases, accidents with sharp objects and running with scissors pale to almost nothing.

            Is it a virus? A cancer? A new mind-splitting drug? No. It’s cars.

           A study by Ezekiel Emanuel and David Wendler from the National Institutes of Health shows that daily hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and even deaths per million increase only slightly through childhood and early adolescence.

Before the driving age, football injuries top the list at 3800 injuries per million occasions of participation. Soccer is next at 2400, then basketball at 1900, cheerleading 1700, baseball, 1400 and skateboarding, 800. All of these injuries become less frequent as the kids grow up. Of course the number and age of players varies in these sports.

But until they reach the 15- to 19-age group, the daily death rate among children is almost steady at about 1 per million per day. For teenagers, the statistics increase dramatically. From early to late teens, emergency room visits jump from 30 to 60 per million per day. For older teens, deaths skyrocket to 10 per million per day.

All that we do to protect our kids by using car seats and seat belts, lecturing about looking both ways and following the rules at the neighborhood pool—all is overwhelmed and swept aside by the shocking statistics of driving and riding with reckless friends.

The girls are now almost as much at risk as the boys. In 1990, 160 of every 1000 girls wrecked their cars that year and by 2000 the number was 175.  The boys are steady at 210 per 1000 per year.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that girls drink just as much as boys—48 percent of girls drink; 52 percent of boys. In 2000, high school freshmen girls nudged out the boys for first place in reports of regular drinking—41 percent of girls and 40 percent of boys.

Saying, “Be careful” is not enough. Limitations and restrictions need to be enforced. Join a parent team that will be checking every car that leaves the prom dance. Better yet, help your teens plan the whole evening with chauffeuring and no need for cars. Nothing else you have ever done to protect them during all their growing up years means as much as your riding and driving rules.

You don’t want that terrible late-night phone call, “This is Officer Smith of the State Police, Your son (daughter) has been . . .”

Dr. McIntire is the author of Raising Your Teenager Write him through the Journal or go to www.ParentSuccess.com

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