Your teen is a responsible student. She’s an asset to her soccer team. She consistently earns high grades on her assignments. She volunteers at the local animal shelter. Surely, you think, my daughter would never get in a vehicle with a drunk driver.
But the sobering reality is that many teens will get into a vehicle driven by a drunk driver.
That’s why it’s critical to talk to your teen about drinking and driving now. This conversation can’t wait until you discover that an intoxicated driver gave your child a ride home from a party. Teen alcohol use kills 4,700 people a year—don’t let your teen be one of them.
At the Law Office of Dianne L. Sawaya, LLC, we value the safety of you and your family. In this last installment of the Back to School Safe Driving Guide, our car accident attorneys have put together information to help you talk with your teen about drinking and driving. In case you missed it, check out our first post about teen driver safety or our second post about distracted driving.
Danger on the Road: What to Do if You See a Drunk Driver
Drunk drivers pose a danger to themselves, their passengers, and other sober drivers on the road. Does your teen know what to do if they see a drunk driver on the road? Make sure your teen is prepared by reviewing what they should do:
- First: stay as far away from the drunk driver as possible. They’re likely to stop unexpectedly or make sudden movements.
- Second: do not try to pass the vehicle. Attempting this could result in a collision.
- Third: take notice of the license plate and the make, model, and color of the vehicle. If you cannot obtain all of this information, do not compromise your safety to do so.
- Lastly: Pull over and call police. Provide the exact location of the drunk driver, including the name of the street or highway and the direction the vehicle is travelling. Describe the way the vehicle is being driven.
How Do I Talk to my Teen about Drunk Driving?
Talking to your son or daughter about drinking and driving can be difficult, especially if your teen does not want to listen or give you their full attention. There are many ways, however, that you can convey the importance of staying safe.
Set a good example for your teen.
If you’re not setting a good example of responsible drinking behavior, you can’t expect your children to act responsibly in similar scenarios. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink in front of your teen. Instead, discuss who will be the designated driver in front of them and follow through.
Start early and talk often.
Having a close relationship with your child is a great way to reduce their high-risk behaviors. When you make it easy for them to speak openly with you, you’re encouraging conversation. Ask open-ended questions and respect their point of view.
Set clear, realistic expectations.
If your teen recognizes that there are consequences for their actions, they are much less likely to drink and drive or get in a car with an intoxicated driver in the first place.
Develop an action plan with your teen.
Help your teen brainstorm comebacks to avoid drinking alcohol at a party or turn down offers for rides from drunk drivers. Some examples are:
- “My parents will take away my license.”
- “I don’t need a ride. My friend is coming to pick me up.”
- “My mom will never let me out again—she always finds out.”
Teens often say a big reason they don’t call their parents for help is because they don’t want to look uncool in front of their friends. Instead of having your teen call you, create a text code—a word, phrase, or short series of numbers—which you both agree on to alert you that they need to be picked up.
Share the facts.
When it comes to alcohol, there is much misinformation, and your teen may believe they already know everything there is to know. Make a point of asking them about their views on alcohol and what they know. Provide an opportunity for them to ask you questions.
What Happens if Your Teen is Caught Drinking and Driving?
Another way to prevent your teen from drinking and driving is to make sure they are aware of the consequences in the event that they are puller over. A DUI conviction in Colorado can have a huge impact on your teen’s future.
What are the penalties for underage DUI?
In the state of Colorado, if you are under 21 and have a BAC of .02 to .05%, you will face a three-month license suspension for your first offense. You will also be required to pay additional fines and penalties and participate in community service. A BAC above .05% warrants jail time, higher fines ($600 to $1,000), and longer license suspension. Remind your teen that a license suspension will make getting to school and work much more difficult. They won’t be able to drive to their friends’ houses unless someone comes to pick them up.
What happens to insurance for your teen?
Some insurance companies may terminate or refuse to renew a policy after an underage DUI conviction. Other companies will simply raise the monthly premium to a high-risk policy. This raise in price will continue to gouge the wallet of you or your teen for the next three to five years.
Can your teen receive other charges?
In addition to a DUI charge, your underage teen could be charged with any of the following:
- Distributing alcohol to other minors
- Minor in possession
- Soliciting alcohol
- Child endangerment law violations
- Possession of false identification (if a fake ID was used to obtain alcohol)
- Moving and vehicle maintenance violations
Connect with Other Parents
One of the best things you can do to keep your teen safe is to connect with other parents. Get to know the parents of your teen’s friends; you’ll feel more assured that your child is under the supervision of a responsible adult.
Stay Safe Out There!
This concludes our three-part series on back to school driving safety. The car accident attorneys at the Law Office of Dianne Sawaya genuinely hope these tips help make your teen a safer, smarter driver. A car accident is a life-changing and often traumatic event. Giving your teen the resources and skills they need to make good decisions with confidence can make our roads safer for everyone.