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Homecoming, prom, a Friday night after a home game, a boring ol' Tuesday. It doesn't matter what day it is, parents of teens are always praying for their kids to make it home safely. But on days like homecoming where drinking is unfortunately common, parents' worries are amplified. Are there ways to eliminate or at least reduce the chance of your kid becoming a drunk driving statistic?
According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 13.4 million people ages 12 to 20 (34.4% in this age group) reported that they have had at least one drink in their lives. So even if you don't allow or expect your teen to drink, it's never a bad idea to be extra careful making sure they have a safe ride home from that big homecoming party everyone is talking about. If finances allow it, you could rent a party bus or limo and present it as a "just because it'll be fun" way to get around to dinner, the dance, and whatever after-party your kid is attending. "Using a party bus for transportation and parent pick up only after that" was how Leigh, a mom of a class of 2023 graduate, kept her son safer for high school dances. Other parents offer to be the group's chauffeur or arrange for another trusted designated driver. You could also arrange for an Uber, taxi, or city bus to take your child out for their night on the town. Having a plan before the big day just lessens the likelihood your teen will drive after having "just a few" (or worse, more) drinks. If you feel comfortable with your child sleeping over at the place where the after-party is hosted, that may be an option too if the hosts welcome the idea.
No, we're not that naive to think that talking to your teen and telling them "don't do that" will be enough to make them actually not do that. But talking to your teen about the risks of driving after having a few celebratory drinks and also talking about your expectations of them can definitely help. Most teens want to please their parents. They might not always make choices that reflect that, but they do love making us proud. A rehab facility notes that "while parents are correct to be concerned about the temptation and dangers of drinking and driving, having a frank discussion with teens about the realities of underage drinking could go a long way toward diffusing fear on the parent’s side and misperceptions on the teen’s end."
If zero tolerance on drinking is your approach, just make sure you don't assume that means your child isn't in any danger. Teens who aren't allowed to drink can still be passengers in vehicles driven by someone who is drinking, and they can also hide drinking from their parents and lie about it (gasp!). While "my kid would never" might make you feel better temporarily, it won't make you feel better if something bad happens.
Here are a few ways to keep your teen safer on nights like homecoming when drinking and driving might be more of a danger:
1. Talk to him/her and keep open communication about tough topics like this
2. Rent a party bus
3. Be the group's chauffeur
4. Use public transportation
5. Contact Uber or a taxi
6. Arrange a sleepover with the parents hosting the after-party so nobody has to drive
7. Have a responsible designated driver chosen before the events start, and have a back-up plan in case that person's plans to not drink change
8. Voluntarily install an ignition interlock in your teen's vehicle
When your child looks back at their best memories of their youthful years, hopefully homecoming is a night that makes that list. Drinking and driving is always a concern for teen parents, but nights like this make us worry even more. Do your part to encourage safe driving habits. And contact us if you'd like to discuss voluntary installation of our ignition interlock devices to help.
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