Alcohol consumption alters the skills young drivers need the most, such as reaction time, vision, and judgment. Alcohol and drugs are a factor in more than half of teenage collisions, and although new drivers are taught and warned about the dangers of driving under the influence, the talk of impaired driving should begin much sooner. Teenagers learn through repetition and reinforced constructive conversations about impaired driving and responsible behavior on the road. Along with these conversations, the best way to educate at home is to lead by example.
Set a good example by drinking responsibly at home. Make it clear to your teens and guests that excessive drunkenness is unacceptable and can have serious, dangerous effects.
Having an open, honest talk with your teen about the dangers of drinking underage, and/or driving with any trace of alcohol in their system will help keep the priority of safety high in their minds. Setting rules, and clearly outlining the consequences if those rules are broken are important, but your teens should not be afraid to call home if they are in trouble. Make it clear that the last resort should not be drunk driving or getting in the car with a driver who is under the influence. It is easier for your teen to trust you as a guardian if you make it clear that you prioritize their safety over punishment.
Having a conversation about peer pressure can helpfully equip your teen to handle such situations. Sit down and talk about scenarios where they may encounter alcohol consumption. Most teens who drink do so to get drunk, and that comes with poor judgment. Discuss their options when offered a drink at a party, or if pressured to get in a car with an intoxicated driver. Remind them that they can always call you for a ride if they feel pressure or unsafe.
Friends and friend groups hugely impact a teenager’s decision-making. Getting to know your teen’s friends and conversing with your teen about the importance of having mature, responsible friends, can help stop poor decision-making in its tracks. If your teen is hanging around with a group who drinks regularly, and who are okay with intoxicated driving, it is more likely that your teen will at one point be pressured to take part in these dangerous activities, and/or start conforming to the beliefs that underage drinking and intoxicated driving are okay. Furthermore, talking about the importance of having friends who have the same values as yours can remind your teens to befriend people like them, and who steer clear of dangerous, life-threatening activities such as driving while under the influence.
It is most important to create a trusting, honest environment to have open conversations about the danger of poor decision-making. The legal drinking age in Canada is 19 for a reason – teenagers’ frontal lobes are not fully developed, and alcohol can have a negative effect on the maturing brain. Poor decision-making and judgment is common along with adolescent drinking and can become dangerous for everyone. Having an environment where your teen feels comfortable enough to ask questions, and come to you for advice is so important, and can help you diverge and guide your teen out of dangerous situations. The conversation regarding driving under the influence should begin early on to engrave in your teenager’s brain the severity and danger they are putting themselves and others in.
Cantini Law Group has over 30 years’ experience representing Atlantic Canadians who have suffered injuries following a motor vehicle accident. For more articles and safety tips, go to https://cantiniinjurylaw.ca/blog/ or subscribe to our newsletter.