It is not only illegal for teenagers to consume alcohol but it can be deadly if they drink and drive. Alcohol impairs the skills they need the most, from their reaction time to their sense of judgment.
Teens often get distracted easily if they have friends in the car and feel more capable than they actually are when they’re behind the wheel. When parents are proactive from the time their teens start driving, they can help to keep them safe on the road.
Set ground rules
It is important to lay down ground rules before handing over car keys to a teen and to follow through and be consistent with consequences if they break them. Many traffic accidents involving teens are the result of factors such as going too fast, driving while drunk, not wearing a seatbelt, or trusting a friend who has been drinking.
Some of the important ground rules may be prohibiting driving while using a cell phone, requiring the use of a seat belt at all times and giving warnings about speeding. Developing a parent-teen driving agreement setting out rules and expectations can help with enforcement.
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Explain the consequences of breaking the law
Make sure that your teens know it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drive with any alcohol at all in the bloodstream. Lay out the consequences if they are caught driving drunk.
This may include losing a driver’s license, having to attend an alcohol awareness class, community service, a fine, or even jail time. Spell out that it may even result in fatalities where they and other people could lose their lives. Knowing the consequences can give them more incentive to obey the laws.
Equip your teens to handle peer pressure
Many teens face pressure from their peers to drink. Sit down with them and talk about scenarios they may encounter, such as being offered alcohol at a party. Discuss various acceptable answers they could give in such circumstances. If they are offered a ride by a friend who has been drinking, remind them that you will always fetch them regardless of the time or circumstances.
Encourage teens to be friends with other teens who don’t drink and get to know these friends and their parents. If a teen is hanging out with friends known to drink, monitor him or her more closely and establish strict rules about how late the teen can stay out at night.
Practice what you preach
Teens will quickly pick up on dual standards. A teen will look at the way parents drive and at their alcohol consumption. When it comes to driving, parents need to set an example of safe driving. Taking a teen for practice driving sessions is a good way to spend time together and help a teen to improve basic driving skills.
If parents drink excessively or drink and drive, teens may consider it acceptable behavior. Parents need to be good role models, get involved in helping their teens establish good driving habits from the start, and stay involved throughout their teen years.
Keeping the lines of communication open with teens really matters. Those who share knowledge about their lives with their parents are less likely to abuse alcohol and drive while impaired.