Drinking, driving, teenagers and New Year’s Eve

My teenage daughter wants to go to a party at a friend’s house tonight. I’m stuck in a bad position because I’m certain that tonight, of all nights, a teen party will include alcohol. So, should I let her go?

It’s not the drinking I’m worried about as much as the drinking and driving. If I let her go, she will either have to drive herself home after midnight (which means breaking the driving curfew of 11 p.m. and promising not to drink even a sip)  or she will have to get a ride with a friend (who may or may not have been drinking).  Another option is I would have to venture out late at night to pick her up. Not one of those scenarios is appealing.

Ugh! It sure was simpler when I didn’t have to worry about the alcohol factor and when my kids still thought hanging out with mom and dad was cool!

It seems more parents these days are giving into the notion that their teens are going to drink at parties, regardless of being under legal drinking age.

The New York Times reports:

In a national study of 11th and 12th graders commissioned by Liberty Mutual and Students Against Destructive Decisions, nearly half of teenagers said they were allowed by their parents to go to parties where alcohol was being served. While it’s possible to be of two minds about the legal drinking age, few parents are ambivalent about the question of teenagers drinking and then getting behind the wheel. They are totally against it!

But teens are doing it. In that same study, more than one in 10 students reported driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs after New Year’s Eve. What can you do to make sure that one in 10 who is drinking and driving isn’t your kid?

Here’s some advice from an expert:

Recognize that some teenagers will be drinking at parties and renew your promise to pick up a child anytime, anywhere, no questions asked., says Dave Melton, managing director of global safety for Liberty International and an impassioned advocate for keeping young drivers safe. Mr. Melton.  “It’s not a matter of getting angry,” Mr. Melton said. “It’s a matter of getting them home.”

The same study found a number of positives: a majority of teenagers said they would stop drinking and driving if asked by a passenger, or would speak up and tell an impaired friend not to drive. Melton says  parents need to encourage teenagers to act on those good intentions.

Here’s what I plan to tell my daughter about getting a ride home tonight or any night:  Assume any driving friend who has had even a small amount to drink (or used other substances) isn’t safe to drive even if they think they are okay.  That assumption can be a matter of life and death this New Year’s Eve, and any other night as well. Now, I just have to figure out how to deliver this message without it sounding like a lecture!

No one said this parenting stuff was easy. Wishing you and your teens a safe and happy new year!

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