group of teens drinking beer and laughingTeenage drinking and driving has been an issue for decades, and no matter how much research and education are done, new generations of teenagers still engage in the behavior. It's important for everyone involved in a young person's life to recognize the danger and do what they can to prevent teen drunk driving. 

Why Virginia Teens Drink and Drive

Teens drink and drive for lots of reasons, despite knowing the dangers and legal consequences they face. Reasons teens in Northern Virginia drink and drive include:

  • Peer pressure. The desire to fit in, be accepted, or gain social status among their peers can push young people to engage in risky behaviors—including drinking alcohol and driving—even if they understand the potential consequences.
  • Lack of awareness. Some teenagers may not fully understand the consequences and risks associated with drinking and driving. They may underestimate their impairment levels or believe that they are capable of driving safely under the influence of alcohol.
  • Limited alternatives. In some cases, particularly in rural areas, teens lack access to alternative transportation options. Without public transportation, many teens make the choice to drive themselves home because they fear getting caught by their parents. Many teens also lack the foresight to designate a sober driver or plan to spend the night wherever they choose to drink alcohol. 
  • Impaired decision-making. The teenage brain is still developing, particularly the prefrontal cortex responsible for decision-making and impulse control. This immaturity can contribute to poor judgment and impulsive decisions, including the choice to drink and drive.
  • Lack of education. Insufficient education about the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving can contribute to the problem. Some teenagers may not have received comprehensive information about the risks and may underestimate the potential harm caused by this behavior. Schools and parents play an important role in educating teens about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Addressing these factors requires education, open communication, and support systems. By promoting awareness, teaching responsible decision-making, and providing accessible transportation alternatives, we can work together to ensure the safety of young drivers and others on the road.

How Everyone Can Help Prevent Teen Drunk Driving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a list of tips they have found to help prevent drunk driving among teenagers. Learning some of these tips may help prevent your teen from suffering a dangerous Virginia drunk driving accident.

Communities can:

  • Help get the word out about the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving.
  • Ensure enforcement of minimum drinking age laws in retail stores and restaurants, teach the severity of what a zero-tolerance policy means, and install the graduated driver’s license program.

Medical professionals can:

  • Educate parents and their teenagers about the risks involved with drinking and driving.
  • Encourage parents to create a “contract” with their teenager regarding the “rules of the road” and how they pledge to follow them if they want to continue to have driving privileges. 
  • Remind parents that even though their children are older, they still continue to learn by example. Displaying safe driving habits will teach the teen what is acceptable.

Parents can:

  • Understand that teenage behavior includes indulging. If a teen chooses to drink, it will be to get drunk.
  • Recognize and remain aware of the dangers of teen drinking and teenagers’ higher propensity to engage in the behavior.
  • Teach your teen that they can always call for a ride home no matter what. Allowing them to understand you care more about their safety than you do about punishing them will give them the confidence to call you after drinking instead of getting behind the wheel.

Teens can:

  • Choose never to get behind the wheel and drive a car if you have been drinking.
  • Make the safe choice and refuse to get into a car with someone who has been drinking.
  • Learn the “rules of the road” and make sure to follow them. They are there for a reason.
  • Never try to drive and talk or text on your phone. 
  • Talk to your parents about the dangers of drinking and driving.
  • Set up an agreement with your parents. If you choose to make a bad decision one night and drink, you should have a plan for a safe ride no matter where you are at.

Teenagers have a tendency to take part in all kinds of risky behavior. Sometimes we can help prevent it, and sometimes, we can’t. If your teen has gotten into trouble with a drunk driving accident, there is help.

Richard A. Dulaney
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Richard has over 30 years of experience in personal injury law.
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