Lesson 12: Prevent Impaired Driving

Here’s a question all parents have to reckon with eventually: how do I talk to my teen driver about drugs and alcohol, and actually get him or her to listen? The best way to address the risks of impairment with your teen is to talk frequently and honestly about them. Here are some tips to help.

Simplify the Message

Nothing good happens when an impaired person gets behind the wheel. When it’s an inexperienced driver, the risk is even greater. With so little experience on the road, it can be difficult for your teen to understand how dangerous impaired driving really is, whether it’s from alcohol, drugs or fatigue. The safest strategy for any driver—especially teens—is to avoid any substance or condition that leads to impaired driving, and to never ride with an impaired driver, either.

Be Strict

Zero-tolerance laws exist for a reason. Even for experienced, adult drivers, impairment begins with the first use of any impairing substance, and there should be no wiggle room on this point. Emphasize this rule in your New Driver Deal, and make it clear that it is never safe to ride with an impaired driver. To get your teen on board, these rules need to apply to you, as well. If you ever drive while impaired, even if it is from fatigue or prescription medications, it can give your teen the idea that this is okay in certain circumstances. But if you commit to staying strict on this issue, there will be no room for negotiation.

Talk: Don’t ignore this issue or assume your teen would never drive while impaired. Focus on the facts, and make it clear that if your teen ever feels incapable of driving safely, you are always available to pick him or her up. Consequences can be decided later, but your teen can’t take back the decision to drive while impaired.


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