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Substance Abuse

It is no secret that some teens experiment with drugs, alcohol, and other substances to avoid problems or to fit in. Although this should always be discouraged, it’s particularly hazardous when combined with driving. Although teen drivers are less likely than adults to drink and drive, their crash risk is substantially higher when they do, even with low or moderate blood-alcohol levels:

  • In 2012 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 27 percent of 16-20-year-old passenger vehicle drivers fatally injured in crashes had BACs of 0.08 percent or higher (legally intoxicated).
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 24 percent of teen passengers report riding in a car at least once during the prior month with a teen driver who had been drinking. 

The good news is that the great majority of teens are not getting behind the wheel after drinking or using drugs. According to the CDC, driving a car after drinking (during the prior month) slightly decreased from 10 percent to 8 percent in 2011 versus 2008. 

Talk to your teen about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Let her know that if she does choose to experiment, she should call you instead of getting behind the wheel. This also applies to accepting a ride from someone she knows (or suspects) has been drinking or doing drugs. That’s why it’s critical to discuss that a safe ride is always a call or text away. Use the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Contract for Life as your guide and agree on a code word to keep your child safe.  

Remember that teens with involved, supportive parents are 71 percent less likely to drive while intoxicated. (Read the report for more information on the importance of parent involvement in teen driver safety.)

Substance Abuse

Further reading:

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