Tag: Underage Drinking

100 deadliest days for teenagers on the road are in summerThe countdown has begun.

Talk to police, and they’ll tell you that the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day comprises the 100 deadliest days of the year. During this period – this summer it’s really 98 days – road crashes and fatalities invariably climb.

One reason has to do with teenagers. Road collisions always go up on holidays, and the summer months are, for most teens, one big holiday. That changes the risk factors for collisions, and not in their favor:

  • Teens drive more in the summer than they do during the rest of the year.
  • Driving distances are greater in summer, as excursions go beyond home and school.
  • Teens have a greater tendency to give in to distraction.

The last factor has recently been cited by AAA as the cause for 60 percent of crashes involving teen drivers. The distractions cited include:

  • Cell phones
  • Distractions due to other passengers
  • Taking eyes from road to look at radio, stereo, etc.
  • Personal grooming, singing along with music

The AAA study does not go into the general tendencies among teens that increase their chances of a collision:

  • Lack of driving experience
  • Poor impulse control
  • Peer pressure
  • Desire for thrills through risky behavior
  • Feeling of invincibility
  • Likelihood of alcohol use

If you have a teen, there are things you can do to improve your teen’s chances of staying safe behind the wheel.

  • Talk about dangerous driving. Don’t assume your teen is aware of all the risks.
  • Be a good example. When you’re driving with your teen, take extra care to model good driving habits.
  • Draw up a contract. An explicit signed agreement stating, “I will not speed, use alcohol or check my cell phone while driving” can help your teen understand how high the stakes are.

Summer is a time of fun and relaxation for many people. Realizing that the season carries extra dangers is the first step in keeping your teens safe on the road.

Enjoy the next 84 days. Stay safe.

A couple of things we know about high school-age teens: they engage in risky behavior, and they don’t get enough sleep. And now a CDC study suggests that these two facts are related.

The Center for Disease Control found that almost 70 percent of teens reported that they don’t get enough sleep on an average school night. Most parents would probably agree.

What’s startling is that sleep deprivation is associated with behavior that is a health risk. This includes drinking, smoking, physical inactivity, and impaired driving.

The CDC surveyed over 50,000 high schoolers on their sleep habits. Among the findings: those who got insufficient sleep were also more likely to admit to:

  • Not using a bicycle helmet
  • Not wearing a seat belt
  • Riding with a drinking driver
  • Drinking while driving
  • Texting while driving

This is big news because, as another CDC report states, “unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for adolescents, with approximately two thirds of these fatalities related to road traffic crashes.” If a lack of sleep is one of the factors causing these deaths, than we have been ignoring a lethal social trend.

The good news here is that it’s not as hard to reverse this trend, provided we’re all determined to do so. In some municipalities, schools have begun starting high school later, to let students sleep more.

If you’re a parent and you’re worried that your teen isn’t sleeping enough, you now have more incentive than ever to turn things around. Here are some things you can do:

  • Don’t keep caffeinated soft drinks at home. Teens are unlikely to make coffee in the evening, but they might grab a drink that has just as much caffeine.
  • Screens off. Enforce a rule of no screens, including cellphones, after a certain time at night – say nine p.m. or so
  • Make sleep a priority. We always manage to make sure our kids get food and shelter – now we need to make sure they get sleep as well. When a new activity is proposed, it’s necessary to ask, “Will this interefere with sleep?”

Life is risky enough without adding risky behavior. And few activities are as dangerous as drunk driving. Helping your teen get more sleep might be the simplest way to make the roads – and your own child – safer.

Life isn’t always fair for kids. They have to contend with things they don’t understand, things which can harm them. And one of the greatest dangers they face is alcohol.

Alcohol, which is not meant for kids and is especially dangerous for them, is easily available and relatively cheap. Children learn from the example of their parents but also older kids, and drinking can be seen as an important rite of passage. Teens especially can undergo peer pressure which leads to binge drinking and drunk driving.

In order to help deal with this problem, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has designated April 21st the National Day to talk to your kids and teens about alcohol.

As kids get into middle school, parents face the problem of diminishing influence. Children who once considered their parents their most important influence are now more worried about being cool, gaining prestige with their peers, and getting into cliques. Sometimes alcohol is the test of who is “in” and who is “out.”

To make the talk easier, MADD has prepared a guide, “Talking to Kids and Teens About Alcohol.” You can download the guide and use the language in it to help frame the discussion with your own kids. The guide urges parents to adopt certain strategies with their kids:

  • Set a rule of no alcohol before age 21
  • Monitor kids’ activities to ensure the rules is being followed
  • Agree on consequences for breaking the zero-tolerance rule

It takes more than one talk to keep a child or teen on the right path. Your work will not be over after tomorrow. But perhaps starting the conversation will help you and your child understand each other better.

Parents often assume that their child is too young to be interested in drinking, or that he or she is the “good kid” who just isn’t interested in alcohol. Statistics tell a different story: a kid can be intelligent and well-behaved and still take foolish risks.

On the other end of the spectrum, some parents despair that their kids won’t ever listen to them. As the guide points out, parents have more influence than they think. Which is why you should download the guide and learn how to deal with the possibilities.

Tomorrow’s the day. Set aside some time to talk to your kids about alcohol – it might make a difference that will last their whole lives.

“I’m drunk and I can drive good,” he said — after the crash. Not so good: back in July in West Phoenix 14-year-old Miguel Maldonado dashed through a red light and collided with an SUV and put three innocent people in the hospital – one of them a 3-year-old.

It’s hard to find anything redeeming in the situation: the driver was underage, unlicensed, and drinking, and judging from his statement after the fact, unrepentant.

But he had an accomplice who has not been indicted, or even caught. Last week it was revealed how the boy got access to alcohol in the first place: Maldonado paid a stranger three dollars to buy him beer and margaritas. Maldonado was drinking beer when he plowed through the red light.

That stranger bears some of the responsibility for this terrible crash. Had Maldonado not been able to buy alcohol, perhaps it wouldn’t have happened.

There are reasons we don’t sell alcohol to minors, don’t allow 14-year-olds to drive at night and without supervision, and don’t allow anyone to drink and drive. This disaster was a chilling demonstration of what those reasons are.  We can credit some of Maldonado’s bad judgment to his young age, but what of the adult who bought his drinks? What possible reason, apart from the three dollars, can he have had for putting alcohol in the hands of a minor?

For the record, Arizona does not allow anyone to sell or furnish alcohol to minors – with no exceptions.

For reasons that are all too clear.

safe-and-sober-targeted-teen-drinkers

Residents of Tempe, Arizona were expecting a crackdown this month. For the last two years police in that city have organized a nine-day blitz targeting underage drinking and street crime in late summer. The program was regarded by police as a success. But this year the crackdown won’t take place as scheduled.

The campaign, called “Safe and Sober,” would have begun at the start of the Arizona State University term. Police representatives would have passed out pamphlets declaring that loud parties and underage drinking are not tolerated. Patrols would have come out in force, broken up parties, and made arrests by the hundreds. Some of them would be DUIs, but the increased police presence would have resulted in many arrests for many types of crimes.

So what happened? Why is the campaign being scrapped, and another one put in its place?

Local residents have objected to Safe and Sober as too prone to violate citizens’ rights. Community policing is under the spotlight as never before, and the visible police presence and frequent traffic stops were causing controversy.

This year changes are being made. Police representatives will not wear uniforms on neighborhood walks, for one thing. The DUI arrests and party breakups will happen, but instead of a nine-day crackdown there will be a year-long education campaign against underage drinking.

It remains to be seen how this approach will work. Education is fundamental to any anti-DUI campaign. So is enforcement, which should include both standard penalties and an ignition interlock requirement. Finally, there is counseling and treatment, which have been shown to help, particularly when combined with the interlock requirement.

Some regret the change in the program, and others welcome it. But it’s a fact of life that these days, DUI enforcement needs to take into account community interests as well as public safety concerns.

Underage drinking is a tough nut to crack.

Peer pressure is at its maximum in middle- and high-schoolers. In those insecure years, kids will do almost anything to achieve popularity or a sense of belonging, and sadly, drinking is often the price of admission into the social elite.

North Carolina is a good example of how underage drinking can get out of hand. Research reveals that the average youth there has had his or her first drink by age 14. And so two organizations in Pitt County are teaming up to fight that trend.

The Pitt County Coalition on Substance Abuse and the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission are collaborating on a multimedia campaign called Talk It Out. The program is designed to foster communication between parents and kids.

At the program’s website, talkitoutnc.org, parents can learn how to talk with their kids about drinking. They’ll learn what all parents need to know, including tips such as:

  • Talk Early. It’s important to have conversations before they’re exposed to alcohol.
  • Don’t Just Say “No.” Explain Why. Kids need to know how dangerous it is. Just telling them to wait until they’re older won’t work.

The site also provides parents with guides on underage drinking so that parents can be well informed on the risks. It also gives them ideas on how to start the conversation.

Why all the emphasis on parents? Why is the program not an all-out effort aimed at scaring teens straight? Because that approach has not done well in the past – promoting communication and trust is a better way to help young people make better decisions. A 2014 study found that too many parents waited too late to start talking with their kids about underage drinking. It also found that most students agree that underage drinking is a problem, and that having their parents talk more about it to their kids would help.

We will probably never be entirely free of the problem of kids who drink – it’s notoriously difficult to constrain the behavior of kids who are too old to treat like babies, but too young to manage their own life decisions.  But if the problem is persistent, it is not insurmountable: with Talk It Out, Pitt County has found a way to attack underage drinking and change the course of quite a few young lives.

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