Increased Risk of Teen Drunk Driving Around the Holidays
The holidays can be a great reason to celebrate, but unfortunately, those celebrations can mean increased drinking by teenagers. Teen parties during the holidays increase risks for drunk driving. After drinking at a party, teens tend to either drive themselves home or obtain a ride from a friend who has been drinking.
December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month because drunk driving increases so much during the holiday season. In 2014, nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths were due to alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Here are some important facts for parents to know:
- A 2015 survey by Mothers Against Drunk Driving found that 30% of teens have knowingly accepted a ride in the past year from a driver who had been drinking.
- 50% of teen partygoers report attending parties where alcohol, drugs or both are available.
- 87% of high school seniors have used alcohol.
- The average age at which teens begin to drink is 13.
- Across the nation, approximately 5,000 teens die each year as a result of underage drinking, including motor vehicle crashes, alcohol poisoning, and unintentional injuries.
Tips to Prevent Teens from Driving Impaired
Here are some tips to help prevent your teen from experiencing an alcohol-related accident.
- Be specific in your expectations. Tell your teen to never drive after having consumed any amount of alcohol and to never ride with anyone who has been drinking, even if he doesn’t seem drunk.
- Be a great role model. Never let your teen see you drunk or drive after a couple drinks. Never condone underage drinking. Never serve alcohol to minors.
- Know the details when your teen leaves the home: where are they going, who is going with them, what transportation are they using, and when will they be back.
- Whenever your teen is out for the night, encourage them to stay in one location rather than driving to a lot of places. Even if your teen and his/her friends are not drinking, there are still other people on the roads who are.
- Have curfews and always wait up for your teen. Have a brief conversation and look for signs of drinking.
- Don’t allow your teen to spend the night at the house of a “friend” you don’t know or where you know the parents don’t supervise the kids.
- Offer safe ways for your child to get home. Tell your child you will be available at all hours to pick him/her and his/her friends up – no questions asked – although you should recognize that they still may not want to do this for fear of your disapproval. If you live in an area with public transportation, give them information on how to use it. You could also potentially give them cab money to use in a bad situation, but there is always the chance that they will use the money on other things without you knowing.
- Teach them the potential consequences of their actions, such as losing car insurance and/or drivers license, paying large fines and/or jail time, hurting someone, and having this mistake on their permanent record.
- Share true stories of drunk drivers, which can provide an eye-opening perspective for your teen. Eavan Jenkins was brave enough to recently share her story with the New Jersey Department of Human Services. This is a perfect example to share with your teen:
“Driving impaired has changed my life in such a large way. As a teenager I had no idea that one decision could impact many lives and change them all forever. All that mattered to me were my friends and fitting in. I had been warned about the dangers of drinking and driving, I watched educational videos in school, and sat through many assemblies warning me that this is a fatal decision. Yet, I still thought I was different, that I was invincible, and that things like that don’t happen to people I know.
Growing up, I came from a great family in a wonderful neighborhood. Life was good for me; I was involved in many activities and was a good student. My family life was perfect, then tragedy hit us when my father died of a heart attack when I was ten. This was a hard time on my family; we were truly devastated. What I found difficult was talking about it. I closed up and became quiet, never really opening up to anyone about how this affected me. Instead, I focused on my friendships and fitting in. As I got to high school, I found new friends and started drinking. I liked the feeling I got from drinking; it made it so I could hide from all this pain I had.
Drinking the way that I did made smart decisions a lot more difficult. On April 11, 2006 I was hanging out with a few friends. We were drinking quite a bit and thought it would be a good idea to go somewhere else. One of the boys got in the car with me. I was highly impaired at this point and can’t recall much of the situation. What I know to be true (based on police reports) is that I drove 96 mph on the highway and cut across three lanes of traffic and crashed my car into the trees on the side of the road. I woke up shortly after and was shocked at what had happened. My car was so tight, there was blood and glass everywhere and my friend wasn’t responding to my yelling. Eventually I was taken to an emergency room where I had found out my injuries. I also found out that my friend had not survived the crash. This was devastating news and so many thoughts scattered in my mind. “I killed my friend,” was the loudest thought. I could not stop crying and screaming. Here I was 19 years old thinking I was just out having fun and now here I am with this crippling fact.
My life and so many others were changed that night. His mother and father lost a son and I will forever know this and carry it with me every second of every day. My family was crushed by this decision and dealing with the aftermath as well. The community I grew up in now had this awful tragedy that had taken place. I had to now face all of this. Shortly after my release from the hospital, I was arrested and started through the legal proceedings. I accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced to 5 years in state prison. I would serve 4 years of that time in Clinton, NJ. I was terrified and so heart sick. Every time I would feel bad for myself in prison, I was immediately reminded of what an awful thing I did and how much pain I caused his parents. I knew that what I was facing was nothing compared to how I felt on the inside and how awful everyone else felt.
In December 2010 I was released from prison. This was a very difficult adjustment; I missed both my brothers getting married, so my family had changed drastically. Also, all my high school classmates were getting out of college and starting new jobs and I was just now starting my life. For three years I was on parole and not allowed to leave the state. A family member secured me a job and I was able to work hard and get small promotions along the way. It’s been hard to find jobs. There was a lot of debt to climb out of due to all the lawyer fees and hospital bills. Life hasn’t been easy – it’s been a struggle for everyone involved.
It has now been ten years since the crash and there is not a day where I don’t think about it. So many people’s lives were affected by my one decision to drive impaired. I will forever have a criminal record and the thoughts of what I have done. My family will always have this event in its history now. And my friend’s family has forever lost someone they love. Impaired driving affects so many and happens so quickly. I was never invincible; these things really do happen to people like me and countless others. They could happen to anyone.”
Eavan Jenkins lives in Morris County, New Jersey. She has a full-time job as an administrator and she enjoys volunteering to, in her own words, “give back to the community that I have taken from.”