Anyone who has watched the Lord of the Ring’s movie will know what I am talking about. King Boromir breaks down in tears when he realizes his child is dead saying, “Alas, that these evil days should be mine. The young perish and the old linger. That I should live to see that last days of my house… No parent should have to bury their child.” What a haunting quote.
The quote might be years old but it is quite relevant today as well. We treasure our children as they are reflections of us that will persist into the future. We will hand over everything we own for our children but nothing can be as disappointing and scary as a child who might kill himself or someone else. The statistics are quite frightening too as it’s a virtual certainty that one in ten people will cause a DUI driving accident. If you have a family of five, there is a 200% chance that you or someone from your family will be related in an alcohol-related accident. And horribly, the highest numbers of deaths due to drunk driving occur in the 15-25 age groups in the form of teenage victims or teenage drunk drivers.
It could be due to a sudden increase in teenage freedom when they reach college or when they reach the legal age for drinking, peer pressure to drink and act cool, a ‘I can handle it’ attitude, or a nothing can go wrong attitude which contributes to this problem. Local factors also contribute to the problem. For example, The SAMHSA’s Center of Behavioral Health, Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ) stated that 30.8% of underage teenagers consumed alcohol and drank it before driving resulting in DUIs. Out of that, 8.3% purchased the alcohol themselves while 22.3% gave money to an adult or older teenager to purchase it for them. More than 37.4% were able to get a stranger to purchase alcohol for them while 21.1% were able to get if from family members. In fact, the association also states that teenage males with teen passengers are more likely to crash cars while drinking.
The problem is the same; teenagers drink or are encouraged to drink and then they minimize the effect that alcohol is having on their mind and their bodies. When adults find it difficult to predict the effect that a single drink can have on their judgment and driving ability; how can we expect children(over the age of 18; but children none the less) to understand the impact of alcohol on their bodies? For example, a blood alcohol level of .05-.10 in teenagers can easily cause them to vacillate on horizontal and vertical judgment while driving and cause a crash. However, this level could easily be considered normal and acceptable in many states.
What can be done for teenage driving and drinking?
We can do a lot to educate teenagers and adults on the problems on drunk driving. Most states have lowered the legal limits on blood alcohol tests for drunk driving. More than 20 states have also made in mandatory for first-time offenders to face a panel of adults selected from the drunken driving victim families. Stricter laws are also now in place regarding dispensing of alcohol to minors and teenagers. Authorities in a few states have also recommended graduated driver licensing systems that may help to curb the problem. Hollywood has got on to the bandwagon too with the term ‘designated driver’ usually be used for one abstaining person who takes care of the soused party-people on a night out and drives them home.
Intensive education and promotion of safe driving procedures have helped to turn the tide but it is going to be an ongoing struggle.