Talk to Your Teen About the Dangers of Drinking and Driving

It’s the holiday season, which often means receiving invitations to fun parties with friends and family—including for your teen. We want everyone to have a happy and safe holiday season, which is why we think it’s important for parents to talk to their teens now about the dangers of driving under the influence (or getting in a car with someone who is).

While consuming alcohol is, of course, illegal and dangerous for minors, the unfortunate truth is that this doesn’t mean your teen won’t have the opportunity to try it or become intoxicated underage. For all the new freedoms that come with a driver’s license, increased access to alcohol is one that proves especially worrisome. Talking to your teen early about the dangers of drinking and driving can help keep them—and everyone else on the road—a whole lot safer. Here are a few points we think are particularly important when talking to your teen about alcohol and driving:

Teach them to never get behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking.

First and foremost, your teen should know that drinking and driving is unacceptable. Not only does it put their life in danger, but it does so for everyone else on the road as well. In addition, a citation for drinking and driving can affect college applications, job opportunities, and even result in jail time or license suspension.

Teach them to never get in a vehicle with a driver who has been drinking.

Being a passenger in a vehicle with a drunk driver can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving yourself. Make sure they are able to identify whether someone is able to safely drive, and are comfortable turning down a ride if that isn’t the case.

Give them alternate ride options.

Some teens drink and drive (or accept rides from intoxicated friends) because they’re trying to make curfew and don’t want to deal with the fallout from calling mom or dad for a ride home. Let your teen know that they can count on you for a ride—anytime, anywhere, without judgement. Make sure they understand that you are not condoning or accepting underage drinking, but rather that their safety is the most important thing to you, no matter how disappointed with them you may be. Additionally, encourage them to use rideshare services like Lyft or Uber when possible for a guaranteed sober ride home.

Make sure they know the legal limit.

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 consume alcohol at all, much less drive with alcohol in their system. However, your teen won’t be under 21 forever. Help them understand how to estimate blood alcohol level to set them up for a smooth and responsible transition when they’re able to legally drink. Some key facts to share with them are:

  • In all 50 states, the legal limit for drunk driving is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08. A 120-pound woman can reach a .08 BAC level after only two drinks and a 180-pound man can be at .08 after only four drinks.
  • “One drink” is either one shot of liquor, a five-ounce glass of wine, or one beer—all of which contain the same amount of alcohol.
  • Help them correlate BAC levels with certain noticeable behaviors by reviewing a chart like this one.

Make a driving agreement.

It might seem a little over-the-top, but having a written and signed agreement can go a long way in making sure everyone is on the same page as far as family expectations go. Write down exactly what your expectations are, as well as consequences for any breach of contract (loss of driving privileges, loss of parents paying for insurance, etc.). Be sure to go over it thoroughly with your teen and verify that it’s something they can uphold. Give your teen a copy to keep so they can refer back to it if needed.

Do you have a teenager at home? Have any tips or best practices for educating and dissuading your teen from underage drinking and driving? Let us know!