Teen driving: Define “under the influence”

Car keys and empty bottlesOnly 5% of teens admit to occasionally driving under the influence of alcohol. But another 9.5% of teens (1 in 10 of the teens who say they never drive under the influence) admit that they do occasionally drive after having had at least one alcoholic beverage. Confused?

These statistics (from a new study by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD) remind me of far too many of my experiences with teens. Something that I feel I have made abundantly clear (“Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol!”), and which teens readily agree to (86% of teen drivers agree that driving under the influence is extremely or very distracting), somehow manages to develop a magical grey area that teens use to justify risky behavior.

Take, for example, teens’ scary definition of a designated driver. 47% of teens admit to using a designated driver (yay!) but 21% say a DD is allowed to have “a little” alcohol or other drugs and another 4% define a DD as the “most sober” person in the group (*sigh*).

Such is parenting. It seems that in the area of safe driving, we need to regroup (again) and have a couple heart-to-hearts with our kids. Let’s remind them that people of all ages always feel less impaired than they really are and the safest choice (even for those of legal drinking age) is to have a completely sober driver. And while you’re at it, discuss texting and phone use while driving too. Remind them that reading a text is just as distracting as typing a text, both count as “texting,” and neither is acceptable behind the wheel of a car.

Have any good rules or conversations for teens and driving? Share them in the comments!