Leaving Their Car Keys

  • Leaving Their Car Keys
    By CWK Network Producer

    “I’ve been around when [kids have been drinking] and they leave their keys so they make sure they don’t drive.”
    -Kenny, 17 years old

    In the tragedy called drinking and driving, the good news is that the number of deaths have been steadily falling for the last 15 years. The bad news? This year, an estimated 1,300 teens will die because they were drinking and driving and then crashed.

    Teens still drink, but more of them are leaving their car keys on the table.

    “They won’t get in the car, and then you’ll see people that do get in the car, and you think, ‘Oh god what do I do, do I take the keys,’ “says 18-year-old Katie. “Well, you take the keys of course.”

    In fact, studies show that since 1986, teenage drunk driving deaths have been cut in half.

    “Maybe it’s the fact that we don’t want to lose our lives over something stupid,” says 14-year-old Mark Davis.

    But why are teens getting smarter? Some experts say two things: public awareness campaigns and personal experience.

    “Almost every high school has had in a year or a two year period a youngster who’s died as a result of drinking or driving or been in a car crash,” says psychologist Dr. Betsy Gard.

    Jarrod Norman and John Bicklehaup lost their lives when their out-of-control car struck a cement sign.
    That may have changed how kids at their school feel about drinking and driving.

    “Because they know it can happen now, so they wouldn’t feel bad about not doing it. They’ll be like, ‘You’re right,’ you know,” says 17-year-old Sara Knapp.

    Experts say parents can be in a tough spot: how should they punish the drinking while rewarding their child’s decision not to drive? It is controversial, but Dr. Gard advises parents to tell their child that if they have been drinking they should call and you will come and them, with no questions asked and no punishment.

    But also make it clear: the first time they get a pass, the second time, they are grounded.

    “You use that grounding period as a time to in a sense, re-embrace the youngster back into your own values and views and family,” says Dr. Gard. “It’s a time when the parent and child can grow closer together without the influences of the peer.”

    Talk to Teens about Dangers of Drinking
    By CWK Network, Inc.

    While overall teen deaths due to drunk driving have dropped in the past 16 years, the CDC reports alcohol is still the top youth drug problem in the U.S. Alcohol kills 6.5 times more young people than all other illicit drugs combined. Studies also indicate the earlier a person begins drinking the more likely they are to suffer from alcohol problems later in life, including alcohol dependency and drunk driving.

    Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) recommends an eight-point plan to cut down on drunk driving and underage drinking:

    • Resuscitate the nation’s efforts to prevent impaired driving
    • Increase enforcement of impaired driving laws, especially through the use of frequent, highly-publicized sobriety checkpoints
    • Enact primary enforcement seat belt laws in all states
    • Create tougher, more comprehensive sanctions geared towards higher risk drivers
    • Develop a dedicated National Traffic Safety Fund
    • Reduce underage drinking
    • Increase beer excise taxes
    • Reinvigorate court monitoring programs

    What Parents Need to Know

    How can you talk with your teens about the dangers of drunk driving? The National Commission Against Drunk Driving notes parents can have a stronger influence on their teens than they might think and suggests these tips:

    • Establish and enforce rules against underage drinking. Be clear and consistent in the rules and the consequences for violating the rules.
    • Be a positive role model. Make sure your behavior is appropriate and that you are a responsible host.
    • Keep alcohol, tobacco products and prescription drugs out of the reach of children too young to understand they should not use them.
    • Encourage and praise your children for the good things they do. Participate in their lives and know what they are doing and with whom.
    • Don’t wait until your children are teenagers to start talking with them about alcohol. Begin shaping their attitudes early, especially because alcohol use often starts in middle school.
    • If you suspect that your child is drinking, don’t stick your head in the sand. Talk to your child, and secure qualified professional help if necessary.
    • If you discover that your child is intoxicated, don’t try to confront the child then. First, check to make sure that the child is safe. If the child’s breathing is slow or irregular or if they exhibit any signs of alcohol poisoning, get emergency medical assistance immediately.
    • When your child is sober, talk to your child about drinking. Obtain qualified professional help from a counselor, therapist or physician if you think your child is a problem drinker or if you want to have your child assessed to determine if he or she is a problem drinker.

    If your child breaks the rules you have set down, you might try these tips from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP):

    • Restrict television and Internet use
    • Have your child read and discuss information about the harmful effects of alcohol
    • Suspend outside activities, like going to the mall or movies
    • Temporarily restrict friends from coming over the house and do not allow visits to friends homes
    • Have your child perform a community service to encourage positive use of time
    • Suspend telephone privileges

    Look for “teachable moments” to talk with your teen:

    • Taking a walk
    • Watching a television program
    • Doing chores
    • Eating dinner
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    About the Program

    In the tragedy called drinking and driving, the good news is that the number of deaths have been steadily falling for the last 15 years. The bad news? This year, an estimated 1,300 teens will die because they were drinking and driving and then crashed.

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