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Tag: Underage Drinking

prom-night-drinking

Let’s ditch the suspense: the answer is no. Prom night might be a few weeks off, and perhaps you were thinking of having a heart-to-heart with your teen right before he or she heads off to the prom. You were going to issue a warning about prom night drinking, and especially, drinking and driving.

If you want to find out why you should be worrying about prom night drinking, ask a patrol cop. They’ll tell you stories about what they’ve encountered in the wee hours during prom season. Those stories include fights, date rape, alcohol poisoning, and, of course, drunk driving.

Why Teens Insist On Drinking

Many teens drink because it’s fun. It’s an adventure, a way of gaining status in a peer group. Prom night adds another factor: it’s a rite of passage. It’s something that happens only once, and it’s held as significant both by teens themselves, the school, and parents. The dance and parties afterwards are mirrors of adulthood, one of the first social experiences they have that resembles what goes on in the adult world. For many students, making the most of that rite of passage includes getting drunk.

Why Prom Night is Too Late

If your plan is to talk to your teen about prom night drinking at 6pm, before he or she takes off, dressed to the nines, remember this: your teen has been planning the night for a while. Somebody has been planning on scoring some booze, and someone has figured out a place go to drink away from the gaze of adults. With all that pre-arranged, a last-minute warning to abstain won’t hold much sway.

Now Is the Time

Talk now. If you need some topics, consider these:

  • It’s more than just drunk driving – being drunk is an invitation to various kinds of harm.
  • It’s not just “don’t drink and drive.” It’s “don’t drink and drive, don’t ever get into a vehicle driven by someone who’s been drinking, and do what you can to prevent that person from driving. If you can’t, call the police. This is non-negotiable.
  • Alcohol poisoning is a major hazard. You need to be emphatic that drinking competitions and beer bongs lead to the emergency room.
  • Even if they’re not the type to drink, they need to be wary of spiked punch bowls and drinks. Tell them if they leave their drink somewhere, to get a fresh one.
  • Let them know you are available to drive them, or will call a taxi for them, no questions asked.
  • If you’re still stuck for what to say, there’s a lot of information online to help you.

Even if your teen gets what you’re saying, chances are someone in his or her group is making plans that could put some kids in danger. The better – and sooner – you can connect with your teens the more likely they’ll make the right decisions on prom night.

high school binge drinkingSome bad news from the CDC. We all know that teens drink, whether parents allow them to or not. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that more than half – about 58 percent – of high school students who drink are binge drinkers.

One one level, it’s an obvious finding. Teens generally overdo things – they’re binge video gamers, binge Frisbee players, binge music listeners, binge social networkers. When they find something fun, they tend to push the end of the envelope.

On another level, high school binge drinking is very disturbing. Binge drinking can be deadly, especially in young people, whose brains are not fully developed. Teens who drink are more likely to develop alcohol dependence. Alcohol can also cause problems with memory, motor skills and brain function.

The CDC defines binge drinking as five or more drinks in a row.

Why High School Binge Drinking Matters

Excessive drinking takes about 4,300 under-21 lives each year. Many students who binge drink do so at a high intensity – 8 or more drinks in a row.

Alcohol use in teens can lead to emotional problems, relationship difficulties, school and job problems, sexual assault and domestic violence. Physical consequences can include more frequent injuries, liver, brain, and nerve damage.

Teen Drinking: What Can Be Done?

The CDC report calls for use of evidence-based prevention strategies for excessive high school binge drinking.

  • Increasing alcohol taxes.
  • Regulating alcohol outlet density.
  • Instituting commercial host liability laws (laws which hold establishments liable for damages caused by teen drinking that occurs at that establishment). This is different from standard underage drinking laws, which prosecute the serving. Dram shop laws, as they are commonly known, make servers consider the damage that their drinking could cause – drunk driving collisions, alcohol poisoning, and injury.

There is also evidence that talking to teens works, provided it’s done early enough and in the right spirit. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) offers some guidance on how parents can approach this difficult but vital subject with their kids.

The CDC report on high school binge drinking might not come as a surprise – but it should be a call to action nonetheless. These are our kids, and they deserve a chance for a healthy, safe future.

prom season drunk driving is a problemOne of the delights of spring in America’s high schools is the prom – a chance for teens to dress up and celebrate the end of a tough school year – usually their last high school year – with a formal event.

Most parents, though, are a bit nervous on prom night if driving is involved, and they’re right to do so. Prom season drunk driving is a real problem: DUI arrests, collisions and deaths rise when teens take to the road for proms, for a few reasons.

  • Teenagers. Young people are the most likely to drive drunk. Teenagers are not allowed to drink in the US, and most states have a zero-tolerance law for underage drunk drivers: anyone under 21 operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .02 or higher can be cited for DUI.Nevertheless, teens do drink, and drive drunk, and prom nights are perhaps the night it’s most likely to happen. Teens tend to be impulsive and have poor judgement, and tend to think of themselves as invincible. Little wonder drunk driving isn’t a big enough deal to them.
  • Alcohol. When teens do drink, they tend to drink too much. Because they’re inexperienced, they don’t even have a good idea of how impaired they are, and how compromised their driving ability is.
  • Fatigue.  Prom night sometimes goes into the wee hours, so teens driving home are tired even if they’re not under the influence. Once again, their inexperience combined with the belief that they can’t be hurt works against them.
  • Distraction. Prom means groups of people stuffed into cars – talking, laughing, goofing around, and generally not paying attention to the road.

What Parents Should Do

If you have a teen with a prom coming up, the time to talk about it is before the day. Lay down some rules and make sure your teen understands how serious you are about them.

  • No drinking. Put this in writing. Let your teens know you’ll be checking when they get home. Expect some resistance to this, but be firm.
  • Wear seat belts. This sounds like a no-brainer, but a lot of teens skip this when they’re riding with peers, and it’s very dangerous.
  • Make sure your teen has money for alternate transportation if the designated driver gets drunk.
  • Arrange a secret text code if your teen wants to beg out of a dicey situation. Be available to pick them up if they signal you.

It’s curious that the event that’s so eagerly awaited by teens can be so dreaded by parents. We wish you a happy and safe prom season.

don't let your teen drink and drive

The sad fact is: young people drink and drive. More teens die in car crashes than any other way – about six every day in the United States. Almost a quarter million people aged 16 through 19 are sent to emergency rooms with motor vehicle injuries.

Teens are more likely to drink and drive than most groups, and worse, teens who drink are more likely to get into collisions than older drunk drivers. Parents, then, have an important role to play in the safety of their kids. It’s up to them to do everything they can to discourage their teens from driving while impaired. Here are 6 things you need to do to keep your teen safe.

1. Lay Down the Rules

Some household rules are implied, some are stated and then forgotten or ignored. The rule against driving under the influence must be set in stone. Ask your child to repeat these:

  • Never drink or use drugs and drive
  • Never ride with someone else who has been drinking or using drugs
  • Never allow a friend who is under the influence to get behind the wheel

2. Make Sure They Understand the Law

The legal BAC (blood alcohol concentration) limit for DUI is .08 for adults, but .02 or even less for people under 21. Penalties for underage DUI are stiff: in many states there are mandatory jail terms, as well as stiff fines, and license suspensions that can last years.  Other crimes like being a minor in possession of alcohol (it’s illegal for a minor to possess alcohol in all 50 states), using a fake ID, and child endangerment (if the teen has underage friends in the vehicle).

In short, the law is very hard on teens who drink. They should not expect to worm out of the consequences.

3. Provide Them a Way to Get Home Anytime

If your teen has been partying and calls you up because they need a ride home, the best policy is suspend the lecture until the next day. Pick them up or arrange a sober ride without any immediate drama. It’s important that your teen is never afraid to call for a ride, because the stakes are high

4. Understand the Power of Peer Pressure

Yes, they would jump off a bridge if everyone else did it. Peer pressure is one of the principal motive forces in a young person’s life, and you won’t easily overcome it. Your teen might be reluctant to call for a ride because friends are around, so arrange a secret code – a spoken or texted phrase that means, “I need a ride home.” Don’t worry that you’re sending the wrong signal. Your teens do lots of things you don’t approve of, and they know it. But the real signal you’re sending is that you’re putting their safety above everything else.

5. Talk With Your Teen, and Listen to Them

Keep lines of communication open. That’s not always as easy as it sounds, but if you listen to their problems, they are more likely to listen to you when you do talk, and there’s a better chance they’ll see your side of things.

6. Set an Example

You can easily throw all this work out the window if you drink and drive. Your own behaviour is the basis for what your teens do.

Tempe DUI sweep targets college drinkersDrinking and driving is not an equal-opportunity crime. While you can find pre-teen drunk drivers and ones in their 70s and 80s, young people – including college drinkers – are over-represented in those ranks. Most are in the 21 to 34 group. Impulsiveness, immaturity, a youthful feeling of invincibility and peer pressure combine to make younger drivers a greater risk for DUI.

drunk-drivers-by-age-2013

Source: US Dept. of Health and Human Services

Colleges are thus a nexus for drunk driving, a fact which has not escaped a DUI task force that swept the area containing Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. Last week the force made 147 arrests in two days.

The idea of the force, which included offices from various police departments, was to bring down the rate of drunk driving around Arizona State University. “With school starting back up, there’s an influx of new students,” says Tempe police spokeswoman Detective Lily Duran. “Many of them are away from home for the first time. We want to keep them as safe as possible, by making sure that no one in the area is driving while intoxicated.”

In general, DUI task forces, also called saturation patrols, work in two ways:

  • Stopping, testing, and removing drunk drivers from the road
  • Deterring potential drunk drivers from making the decision to drink and drive. Seeing another driver in the process of being tested and handcuffed is often enough to dissuade a person from making the same mistake

The task force was concentrating on drunk drivers around the university, but drunk driving inside the university is also a problem. A University of Maryland study found that 1 in 5 college students admitted to drunk driving, and twice that number – 40 percent – admitted to riding with a drunk driver. Moreover, the risk seems to rise once students reach the legal drinking age of 21.

There is some good news: a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that laws and enforcement can help:

Students who attend colleges in states that have more restrictions on underaged drinking, high volume consumption, and sales of alcoholic beverages, and devote more resources to enforcing drunk driving laws, report less drinking and driving.

It takes more than one task force to change stop drunk driving, and it’s doubtful that there’s any means of discouraging college drinkers altogether. But deterrence helps, and students at ASU know they’re being watched as well as watched out for. Perhaps that will translate into fewer arrests, fewer DUI collisions, and fewer road deaths in the future.

teens need an ignition interlockIt’s not easy being the parent of a teen. Every day can be a battle of wills, and your concern for their safety isn’t always appreciated. And when they drive, your worries multiply. Teens take risks: they speed, they are easily distracted, and too often they drink and drive.

Some parents have found a way to ease their worries: they install an ignition interlock device in their teen’s car. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

You might be aware that ignition interlocks, also called IIDs (ignition interlock devices) or BAIIDs (breath alcohol ignition interlock device) are often ordered for those convicted of drunk driving. In fact, 26 states now mandate the devices for all drunk driving offenses, including first offenses, and more states are following suit.

A Voluntary Ignition Interlock Makes Sense for Teens

It’s possible to contact an ignition interlock provider and have one installed on any vehicle, so that it can’t be started if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration above around .02 – far below the legal limit for drunkenness. Here’s why it makes sense to have one installed in your teen’s car:

  • Safety. Having an interlock means that the driver of your teen’s car will not be impaired. Since younger drivers are the most likely to get into collisions – and the most likely to drink and drive – your teen will be much safer in an interlock-equipped vehicle.
  • Peace of Mind. As a parent, you can’t help worrying about your teenager when they’re out driving. With the IID, you know that one danger has been eliminated.
  • Lower insurance costs. Depending on your state, the installation of an ignition interlock might get you a break on your insurance, which would be welcome considering how teen drivers are expensive to insure.
  • Instilling good habits. Having an interlock device teaches teens to think about driving if they do have alcohol. While providing alcohol to minors is illegal, teens will find ways to drink, and at least they’ll learn that driving is out of the question.

It’s not hard at all to have an ignition interlock installed in your teenager’s car. Just contact your provider and ask for a voluntary installation. The provider will install the device and train your teen and anyone else in its operation.

Life is chancy enough, and teens face enough risks on the road, without adding drunk driving to the mix. Consider being a champion parent and having this life-saving device installed in your teen’s car today.

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