Prevent Drunk Driving

by Beth Hering
The Challenge

Just how big of a public health crisis is underage drinking? A national survey among high school students found that during just the past 30 days, 8 percent drove after drinking alcohol and nearly 25 percent rode with a driver who had been drinking.

Imagine being a parent who learns these statistics the hard way: with a phone call stating that his or her child has been killed in a drunk driving accident.

Thousands of other parents will deal with teenagers who emerge from drunk driving accidents alive but gravely changed — beautiful young daughters burned, athletic sons paralyzed, promising college-bound teens now struggling for words.

Drunk driving accidents injure far more than their immediate teenage victims:

  • a brother or sister may be plagued with guilt for not taking the car keys
  • an older neighbor may forever regret buying the alcohol
  • a classmate may live with nightmares for being the one who was driving drunk but survived.

Sadly, during the past 30 days, 26.4% of underage persons (ages 12-20) used alcohol, and 17.4 percent of them participated in binge drinking. With thoughts that they are not "that" drunk, that they are too scared to call their parents to get a safe ride home, or that they don't want to anger their friends by refusing to get in the car, these teenagers often hit the road — a recipe for disaster for themselves, their passengers, and any innocent motorists who get in their path.

The good news is that you can help prevent teenage drunk-driving accidents, not only by never serving alcohol to minors but by encouraging teenagers and their parents to take responsibility for their actions.

How to Make a Difference I Did This!
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  • Volunteer to help organize a fun, alcohol-free post-prom party at your local high school.
  • Write a letter to local supermarkets and liquor stores stating that you will not patronize any establishment caught selling liquor to minors. Get as many people as you can to sign the petition.
  • If you or someone you love has been affected by a drunk-driving accident, share your story to inspire others.
  • If you are the parent of a teenager, get a free copy of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) handbook Power of Parents. E-mail ten other parents of teenagers, encouraging them to do the same.
  • Download copies of Underage Drinking: Myths vs. Facts for every member of your church's youth group. Include with it a copy of "The Drunk Driving Poem."
  • Download a copy of the Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) "Contract for Life," a fair, two-way agreement in which teenagers promise to call for a safe ride home if they should find themselves in a potentially destructive situation. In return, parents agree to withhold discussion about the situation until a later, calmer time. Copy the contract for distribution at the next meeting of your local high school's parents' association.

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