TEENAGE DRUNK DRIVING
Sign of the times The pressures of growing up in modern society Call it what you will. The fact is that studies have shown:
HY SUCH A HIGH NUMBER OF TEENAGERS?
Its hard to say. There are several explanations for the disproportionately high numbers of teenage alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents - explanations that range from the false notion on "teenage invincibility" to the increase in personal freedoms (i.e. reaching the legal ages for driving and later, for drinking). For some, letting or encouraging an intoxicated person to drive seems funny. And, of course, theres the "I can handle it" syndrome, where the person figures they can "hold" their liquor or that they havent had enough to seriously impair them. Few people realize the effect a mere drink or two can have on their system. For instance, teenage boys with a Blood Alcohol level of .05-.10 (a figure below what most states consider the legally drunk limit) are a staggering 18 times more likely to suffer a single vehicle crash than their non-drinking counterparts. Teenage girls at the same levels are an incredible 54 times more likely to crash.
Perhaps the greatest influence on teenagers and their drinking and driving habits is Peer Pressure.
Peer Pressure doesnt have to be overt. It can be very subtle. And because its so important for teens to feel "in," Peer Pressure, subtle or overt, is a very powerful force.
HY WOULD THERE BE PRESSURE TO DRINK AND DRIVE?
Certainly, almost no one pressures someone to drink and drive. It Just happens. A person who is driving gets "pulled in" by the overwhelming pressure to drink. Or, in some cases, the driver doesnt realistically consider the consequences of his or her drinking and then getting behind the wheel ("teenage invincibility"). And, of course as we said earlier, for some drivers, Peer Pressure causes them to mistakenly "minimize" the effect alcohol has on their driving abilities.
Either way, the results are all too often, lethal.
HATS BEING DONE?
Fortunately, plenty. Several states have lowered the legally drunk Blood Alcohol limit to .08 from .10. Also, in recent years, every state has raised the drinking age to 21 years old. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Report of 1995 showed that almost all recent studies proved that raising the drinking age reduced teen traffic accident statistics significantly, and brought about a 13 percent decrease in fatal traffic accidents for all ages. In addition, studies have indicated that denying alcohol to teenagers also causes a decrease in the consumption of other drugs. Apparently, there is a correlation between teen drinking (and cigarette smoking) and the use of "harder" drugs. Its not a statistic popular with a lot of people, but nonetheless, its been proven.
In addition, more than 20 states now implement a program where first-time offenders (or those refusing to take a Breathalyzer test) are forced to face a panel of drunken driving victims families.
They come face-to face (literally) with the bereaved families of the victims. Its an emotional lesson in the pain and loss suffered by families.
Other programs include laws placing increased liability on bars, parents and others caught dispensing liquor to minors or continuing to dispense alcohol to those who have already had "enough."
A giant step in the continuing battle to save lives has been "SafeRides" programs. On weekends, volunteers wait for calls from teens, too intoxicated to drive, who need rides home. Here, teen drinking is not treated as a "moral" issue. Its taken for the reality that it is, and as such, has been tremendously successful. In the same vein, Students Against Drunk Driving, SADD, has come up with the "Contract for Life". The "Contract" is a document signed by parents and their children. The teens promise to call home if they or the person driving them has been drinking. In exchange, the parents promise to pick them up, no questions asked until later.
And finally, to combat Peer Pressure, Hollywood is getting into the act. A number of studios and production companies (and The Writers Guild of America) have encouraged Hollywoods writers to include in their movie and television scripts, references to the desirability of staying sober or of at least using a "designated driver" (where one member of a group agrees to drive and stay sober for the night). Its a well-recognized fact that the entertainment industry is a very prevalent socializing force in America. As our favorite movies and television shows constantly remind us of the dangers, stupidity, and social undesirability of drunk driving, this concept should become "second-nature" to the American viewing public. The idea, here, is that if Peer Pressure can cause people to drink and drive, it should also be able to prevent people from drinking and driving.
Most of the anti-drunk driving programs weve mentioned have only been in place for the past few years, but the results are conclusive drunk driving accidents and fatalities are declining. The tide is turning. People are beginning to recognize the recklessness and sheer stupidity of driving after drinking, and that you dont have to be "legally drunk" to be seriously impaired. While on the subject of "legally drunk," heres another statistic for you: As a drinking driver, youre four times more likely to crash and be killed or injured than you are to be arrested for exceeding the legal limits of D.U.I. So if youre concerned about being caught driving drunk, think again theres an even better chance you might be caught dead.
Theres nothing cute or funny about an intoxicated person getting behind the wheel. Not when someone with a Blood Alcohol level of .15 (about four to seven drinks per hour for the average teen) is 380 times more likely to die in a single vehicle crash than a sober person. Fortunately, everyone is beginning to pitch in. To paraphrase the commercial, "Friends arent letting friends drive drunk."
But theres still more to do. Get involved. If theres a "SafeRides" program in your area, participate and encourage your friends, children and parents to do likewise. If there isnt a "SafeRides" program, organize one. Contact SADD for information about "The Contract for Life." And if there isnt SADD chapter in your area, again, start one. All too often, these kind of programs get started only after a tragedy occurs.
Dont wait! Prevent that tragedy now, before its too late. Only with everyone pitching in, can we truly put a stop to the senseless destruction that drinking and driving causes to lives and property.
At First Eagle Insurance Services, its an honor to be one of Americas most trusted insurance organizations. But with that trust comes responsibility. A responsibility not only to help pick up the pieces" after a tragedy but to do all we can to prevent one. We hope this information helps. Please, share it with your friends and loved ones.
|NOTE: This text contains generally accepted information regarding teenage drunk driving. Because every situation is different, the distributor of this text cannot be held responsible for the use of the information contained herein.|