Parents, Here’s What You Need to Know About Drunk Driving Accidents and Your Teenager

Parents don’t want to think their teenaged children will drink and get behind the wheel, but the scary truth is, there’s a good chance they will. Parents want to believe the best about their children, but they shouldn’t be naïve. Understand that your child may succumb to peer pressure and do something that is outside of his or her character, like drink alcohol at a party.

Consider the following sobering statistics:

  • One in six teens binge drink, yet only one in 100 parents believe his child is a drinker.
  • Teen alcohol use kills 4,700 people each year, more than all illegal drugs combined.
  • Nearly half of 10th graders drink alcohol..
  • About 8.7 million people ages 12 to 20 have drunk alcohol in the past month.
  • Children who start drinking at a young age are seven times more likely to get into an alcohol-related collision than those who wait to drink.

How can this be? Why are so many young people starting to drink so early? What happened to the obstacles and punishments that were around when you were younger? Are they still here? Why aren’t they working?

Outdated Deterrents and Increased Enforcement

One of the major natural deterrents for underage drinking is the strong taste of alcohol. Many of you probably remember shuddering with revulsion at your first taste of beer, much less your first taste of hard liquor. You basically had to get used to the flavors in order to appreciate it with a grown-up palate.

This is no longer the case. In order to sell more product, alcohol manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to make alcohol taste better. Unfortunately, this means more and more teens are no longer repelled by the strong flavors and are acquiring a taste for new, sweeter concoctions. Most of these beverages actually start out as beer, but then they have the taste, color, and most of the alcohol taken out. What is left over is then mixed with flavors, sweeteners, and distilled alcohol. It is then placed in packages with bright colors and put in the stores.

One of the more popular types of beverage among teen or otherwise underage drinkers are called “Alcopops.” Other names for them are “ready-to-drinks,” “flavored malt beverages,” or, somewhat charmingly, “malternatives.” Among the brand names are Smirnoff Ice, Skyy Blue, Jack Daniel’s Hard Cola, Bacardi Silver, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade. These beverages are designed to appeal to the younger person who is already used to sweet, fruity drinks; after all, you can’t even taste the alcohol, and in fact some of these drinks taste just like lemonade or fruit punch.

When the taste fails to regulate, the law steps in. Texas is a “zero tolerance” state. This means that underage (under 21) drivers are prohibited from operating a vehicle with even the smallest amount of alcohol in their system. In Texas, underage drinkers who drive are…

  • Charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI), rather than the Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) charge that drivers 21 years and older receive.
  • Given a Class C offense in their driving record.
  • Subject to significant fines, license suspension, and other penalties.

The Alcohol Talk

You want to protect your children. Although you may have dreaded it when you were younger, having the “alcohol talk” can truly keep them from making a horrible mistake. Plan your attack by writing down key talking points such as.

  • The amount of alcohol it takes to become impaired. Even just one drink can affect your judgment, ability to drive, and reaction time, which can have deadly effects.
  • Alcohol’s ability to cause severe physical damage. Alcohol moves through the bloodstream and reaches every organ in the body, including your brain. It can cause permanent damage to the heart and liver, as well as impairing the way a person thinks, remembers, and learns forever.
  • The risks of alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning can occur quickly if hard liquor or good-tasting mixed drinks are rapidly consumed. In addition to causing severe impairment, alcohol poisoning can cause severe dehydration, heart palpitations, blackouts, liver damage, and can actually kill you.
  • Types of punishment. In addition to the grueling hangovers, potential legal charges, and insurance hikes, drinking and driving could (and often does) end in an accident. If this happens to you child, he’ll not only have to live with his own physical injuries, but also the guilt and consequences of injuring others for the rest of his life.

Caring Enough to Share

Sharing this page via Facebook, Twitter, and email is an easy way to spread the word to your children, your friends, and your friends’ children about the true dangers of alcohol and drunk driving. Take a moment to protect your loved ones—a simple click could save a life.

For more information on underage drinking and accident risks feel free to browse our other articles on this site—and please remember to model good behavior for your children by never drinking and driving yourself, for both your sake as well as that of your fellow travelers.

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