drunkdrivingThis week marks the one year anniversary of a tragic accident that affected a local nurse and her family. Karina Schulte, her 10 day old son, and his grandparents were walking on a spring day in their neighborhood when a drunk driver struck them. He killed both grandparents and severely injured Karina and her son. In this post, guest author Inga Manskopf of Prevention WINS discusses the importance of parents in preventing teen alcohol use as well as preventing teens from riding in a car with someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Safe Roads Awareness by Inga Manskopf:

Next week is Safe Roads Awareness Week in NE Seattle.  It will kick off with a walk and rally in memory of Dennis and Judy Schulte who were killed by a drunk driver in NE Seattle last year.

Driving under the influence (DUI) is not only an adult problem.  As a Prevention WINS video shows, high school students sometimes drive under the influence resulting in life-threatening consequences. In fact, more than 20% of Washington State high school seniors report riding in a car with a driver who has been drinking, according to the 2012 Healthy Youth Survey.

The best way to prevent teenagers driving drunk is to prevent underage drinking.  However, once a teenager is old enough to get a driver’s license it is important to discuss strategies for avoiding drinking and driving, too.

A recent study conducted by Liberty Mutual asked teenagers about what it means to have a designated driver.  Their responses show that “designated” often means “basically sober”.  Twenty-one percent of teens define their designated driver as allowed to have some alcohol or other drugs, as long as they are not too impaired to drive.  When parents talk with young adults about not drinking and driving, parents should emphasize that no alcohol or drug use is appropriate for a designated driver. But teens riding with drivers who are under the influence is not just about them riding with peers who have been drinking.  In our state, 17% of 8th grade students and almost 20% of 10th grade students report riding in a car with a driver who has been drinking.  It is most likely that the driver who has been drinking is a parent or other adult.

In addition to talking with children about not drinking and driving, it is becoming increasingly important to talk about not using marijuana and driving.  The Washington State Toxicologist, who tests blood for alcohol and other drugs for State Patrol DUI cases, reports that marijuana is the most common drug (including alcohol) detected in adolescent DUI cases.

It is important for parents and all adults to model safe behaviors. Here are some tips for parents in communicating with their teens:

1. Talk about drinking and driving. Talk to your teen about the importance of NOT getting in the car with any driver who has had alcohol or drugs. This includes friends, family, or other adults. Also discuss the importance of NOT driving if they’ve had anything to drink or used any drugs.

2. Model good behavior. If you go to dinner and have a few glasses of wine, don’t agree to be a designated driver. Model the behavior you’d like your teen to have.

3. Listen. Your teen may have questions about alcohol or drugs, or may be open to talking about what they’ve witnessed friends doing while drinking. Try not to get defensive or angry in the moment. Hear them out and seek help if you’re worried.

For more tips see the post:

How to talk to your teen about drugs