Underage drinking is a major problem in the U.S., claiming about 4,700 annual deaths of underage youth, according to researchers at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also reports that while occurrences of drunk driving by teens has declined over the past 20 years, nearly one million teens drove while under the influence of alcohol in 2011. Drunk driving is hazardous to teen drivers, passengers and innocent people on the road. Educating teens on the multiple effects of drunk driving can help prevent this serious public concern.
Vehicular Homicide and Injuries
The most fundamental problem with drunk driving among teens is the risk of getting into a fatal crash. The CDC reports that in 2010, one in five teens who were in fatal car crashes had alcohol in their system. Mothers Against Drunk Driving note that injuries can be minor or long-lasting, too, and recommends that parents not only talk to their teens about the hazards of underage drinking -- let alone drunk driving -- but also about the dangers of riding in cars with friends who've been drinking. Teens often do not consider the consequences of drunk driving, but these consequences often result in loss of life, which could have been prevented.
Economic costs are another issue to consider in the event that a teen gets into an accident while drunk driving. Researchers with Johns Hopkins University's Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth report that underage drinking has costs of $27 billion annually, including medical care and criminal justice costs. Underage drinkers who have a car accident are responsible for not only their own vehicles but also for other vehicles involved in the crash, along with other damaged property, such as mailboxes. If teens are unable to incur the costs associated with replacing damaged property, then their parents may have to pay these fees, which is unfair to them.
MADD lists numerous legal issues that are often associated with drunk driving, including fines, a rise in car insurance rates, criminal charges for underage drinking and possession of alcohol, and driving under the influence. MADD also states that some colleges may view DUI charges negatively, which can prevent some students from attending these colleges. DUI charges may also hamper potential employment opportunities, and can cause teens to be put on probation, which restricts their freedom and forces them to pay fines. A teen's licensed could be revoked, says MADD, and teens could face jail time.
The adolescent brain is undergoing major brain development, and introducing alcohol to this fertile environment can have a lasting, negative impact on growth processes, say researchers with the State of Virginia's Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. StopTeenDUI (link in Resources), is a website created by California's Administrative Office of the Courts to inform teens and parents about the dangers of driving under the influence. Additional, long-term outcomes from underage drinking include a disruption of normal brain development, death of brain cells and alcoholism. In other words, the temporary, feel-good effects of alcohol have detrimental, long-term consequences that each teen should consider before choosing to engage in underage drinking.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: CDC Vital Signs: Teen Drinking and Driving
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving: Parent Handbook for Talking With Teens About Alcohol
- California Judicial Branch: Stop Teen DUI: Short and Long-term Effects of Alcohol
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Facts Sheets: Underage Drinking
- State of Virginia: Office of the Secretary of Public Safety: Underage Drinking
- Johns Hopkins Bloomberg: School of Public Health: The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth: The Toll of Underage Drinking
- Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images