In our last post, we discussed a tragic car accident that killed a 19-year-old and sent an 18-year-old to jail. Car accidents are the leading killer of California teens and alcohol plays a role in many of these crashes. Regardless of a parent’s feelings about underage drinking, most parents agree that drinking driving is unacceptable behavior for anyone to engage in.
Several studies have been done on how to prevent teen drinking and driving. One study of over 1,000 teen drivers found that parents who established clear behavior expectations were less likely to have a teen that drove while drunk.
Teens reported that they were more cautious about driving drunk when they knew that their parents would follow through with punishments and take the matter seriously. Teens with “hands-on” parents were also four times less likely to engage in destructive behaviors like drinking and driving.
The Secret Code
Teens are highly conscious of what their peers think about them. Sometimes the fear of being ostracized prevents a teen from speaking up about serious matters such as drunk driving. Some teens find it helpful when their parents establish a secret code that allows their children to communicate their need for rescue or designated driver.
Example codes include:
- “It’s chilly in Santa Monica.”
- “I think I’m getting the flu.”
When a teen texts these codes to a parent, then the parent knows that the teen needs to be picked up. There’s also the issue of trust: proactive communication is more likely to happen when there is a “no questions asked” policy between a teen and a parent. This means that the teen can be picked up from a dangerous situation without fear of discipline.
It also helps when parents explain to a teen that they understand that there is peer pressure to drink, but that it is more important for the teen to remain safe than to buckle to peer pressure.