No parent wants to believe their child would put themself in harm’s way by driving while impaired or riding with another driver who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, living in denial about the possibility of your teen driver taking part in these life-threatening activities is one of the most dangerous approaches parents can take when it comes to the issue.
Elk & Elk sponsors the None 4 Under 21 and Choices Beyond program for area teens each year to raise awareness about the dangers of impaired and distracted driving. The timing of the event coincides with prom and graduation season, which is one of the most dangerous times of the year for teen drivers. However, parents should also be on high alert around holidays heavily associated with drinking, such as New Year’s Eve.
Starting the conversation about impaired driving with your teen can be difficult, but it’s one of the best ways to encourage them to make safe decisions behind the wheel.
Tips for discussing the dangers of impaired driving with your kids
Earn your teen’s trust.
Even if your child doesn’t participate in risky behaviors, they could be faced with the options of “selling out” their friends or riding with an impaired driver. Make it very clear to your teen that you don’t condone underage drinking or drug use but that you would much rather them contact you if they’re in a sticky situation than to put their life at risk. Be mindful of your reaction if your child ever takes you up on the offer. An excessively angry or negative reaction could push your child to choose a dangerous alternative if they’re ever in the position again.
Don’t forget about your older kids.
The dangers of impaired driving do not disappear when your child turns 21. College students who are within walking distance of all destinations on campus may be more prone to engage in risky driving behavior while home on break or visiting another campus for New Year’s Eve festivities. Offer to serve as their designated driver or pay for alternate transportation on the holiday to ensure safe travels. Encourage your older children to discuss the importance of making safe decisions with their younger siblings.
Set a good example.
You won’t always be around when your child is faced with difficult decisions involving impaired driving, but you can encourage them to make safe choices by setting a good example. Involve your children in discussions about your own plans for New Year’s Eve or other nights out. Explain the importance of arranging for a designated driver or alternate transportation if you plan on drinking at any age.
Put it in writing.
Print off Elk & Elk’s Drunk & Distracted Driving Pledge and have each teen driver in your family commit to making safe decisions behind the wheel. Incorporate your family’s rules or consequences to personalize the agreement, and hang the signed pledges in a visible spot in your home to remind your teens about the importance of safe decisions.
How did you handle discussions with your teen about the dangers of impaired driving? Share your best advice for other parents in the comments.