So, fewer teens are drinking and driving. That’s the good news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found that drunk driving among teens had decreased 54 percent over the last 20 years.
And, nine out of 10 teens 16 years and older said they didn’t drink and drive.
Still, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens 16 to 19. In 2010, a total of 2,211 teens, 16- to 19-years old, died in car crashes in the United States. Nearly 60 percent of those who died were driving, and one in five teen drivers involved in fatal car crashes had been drinking. It’s estimated that 950,000 high school students in 2011 had driven a car after drinking in a previous 30-day period, resulting in approximately 2.4 million episodes of drinking and driving during the past 30 days.
This is according to the report, Vital Signs: Drinking and Driving Among High School Students, United States, 1991-2011. Other findings: Binge drinking is linked to drunken driving amongst teens, and boys are more likely to drink and drive.
“We are moving in the right direction,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas R. Friedensaid in a statement. “But we must keep up the momentum — one in 10 high school teens, aged 16 and older, drinks and drives each month, endangering themselves and others.”
We recently had one of our substance use talks with my son, asking him what he knew about the dangers of drinking and driving and what he’d do if he was offered a ride with a friend who was intoxicated. “I’d call you,” he said.
So, I guess he’s informed about the risks, but who knows whether that will translate into safe behavior over the next few years. Also, it’s not the first and only talk we’ll have on the matter. So far, he hasn’t shown an interest in going out with friends at night, and he’s not yet hanging around older kids who have their licenses. I expect that will change soon. He hasn’t talked about being offered alcohol, but he says he’s seen kids selling pot at Las Lomas High; he was offered pot in the boy’s bathroom at Walnut Creek Intermediate.
As I ask what other parents tell their kids about drinking and driving, I came across a campaign CDC launched this year, “Parents Are the Key,” which says that parents play an important role in keeping teens safe on the road.
We should be role models for safe driving, the campaign says, That includes not talking on the phone while driving — and not driving after having a couple drinks. The CDC also recommends creating a parent-teen driving agreement.
These “eight danger zones” are the leading situations where teen drivers will find themselves most at risk for getting into a serious car accident. They include:
1. Driver inexperience
What parents can do:
- Provide at least 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving practice over at least six months.
- Make sure to practice on a variety of roads, at different times of day, and in varied weather and traffic conditions. This will help your teen gain the skills he or she needs to be safe.
2. Driving with teen passengers
Crash risk goes up when teens drive with other teens in the car. What parents can do:
- Follow your state’s teen driving law for passenger restrictions. If your state doesn’t have such a rule, limit the number of teen passengers your child can have to zero or one.
- Keep this rule for at least the first six months.
3. Nighttime Driving
- Make sure your teen is off the road by 9 or 10 p.m. for at least the first six months of licensed driving.
4. Not using seat belts
- Require your teen to wear a seat belt on every trip. This simple step can reduce your teen’s risk of dying or being badly injured in a crash by about half.
5. Distracted driving
Distractions increase your teen’s risk of being in a crash. What parents can do:
- Don’t allow activities that may take your teen’s attention away from driving, such as talking on a cell phone, texting, eating, or playing with the radio.
6. Drowsy driving
- Be sure your teen is fully rested before he or she gets behind the wheel.
7. Reckless driving
- Help your teen avoid the following unsafe behaviors:
Make sure your teen knows to follow the speed limit and adjust speed to road conditions.
Remind your teen to maintain enough space behind the vehicle ahead to avoid a crash in case of a sudden stop.
- Insufficient Scanning
Stress the importance of always knowing the location of other vehicles on the road
8. Impaired driving
Even one drink will impair your teen’s driving ability and increase the risk of a crash. What parents can do:
- Be a good role model: don’t drink and drive, and reinforce this message with your teen.