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Senseless Risks: Teens, Driving, And Alcohol

Is It Really Worth the Risk?

It’s Friday night and Joe receives an offer to chill with the baseball guys. By no means is Joe a social outcast. However, he limits himself on his involvement with questionable activities. The baseball guys tend to group together in school, and party together on the weekends. Upon the invitation to chill with the guys from the team, Joe accepts, expecting to pull an all-nighter playing Madden 2013 on the Xbox. 

A half-hour after being picked up by his friend, Joe arrives at Max’s house. beer cans and pizza boxes are spread all over the countertops between the game consoles. Joe politely declines the beer, but ravishes into some pepperoni pizza. 

Midway into the night, Max gets a call. The girls’ softball team wants to come over and crash the party. Joe is starting to feel uncomfortable. A quiet night with a few dudes is cool, but a loud party with thirty people is not his thing. His mind begins racing in an inner turmoil.

“How can I get out of this? I cannot call home and tell Mom I am at a party. I told her I was going to play Xbox. I do not want to deal with her anger and the trouble it will bring me,” He thinks quietly to himself.

“Josh, hey man, your place was open tonight too, right? Let’s get Amber and Kristi, and go chill there.”

“Yea, I like that. I’ve only had a couple of beers. I’m good to go,” says Josh.

“Alright, sweet! You only live ten minutes down the freeway, anyway. We’ll be fine, I’m sure. Besides, I’ll be in the seat next to ya if you need some extra guidance.” 

Just like that, Joe and Josh are off to what could be the last drive of their lives. They are off without a thought, worry, concern, or care. Only the expectation of a good night with Amber and Kristi fills their minds. 

Why Would Joe Drive After Even Drinking A Little Bit?

Why do teens take such senseless risks? Peer pressure is a weight that feels like the world on a teen’s shoulders. A lack of understanding is common in such a young mind. Fear often drives people to unwise decisions. Peer pressure, lack of understanding, and fear are common on the list explaining why teens may make such decisions. Let’s examine each scenario:

Peer Pressure

Everyone wants to feel a part of the group. People want to be accepted. Consider social media popularity – Facebook groups, Twitter followers, and Google Plus hangouts. Guarding social acceptance at all costs is a high priority for teens. Enter peer pressure. 

Peer pressure comes in differing forms and ways, but three main varieties of the push emerge. Variety one, a person feels the pressure to behave a certain way in order to gain entrance into a social circle. This may include changing vocabulary, appearance, or even personality. Variety two, a social circle begins to evolve and births pressure to move with the group in order to keep friendships. This involves a leader or a couple of leaders of the social group introduce something new and the teen, along with his peers follow the leading. 

Last is what I believe to be the hardest feeling of peer pressure. Variety three, an individual feels the inside push of their conscience to break out and forsake an existing social group. This is where the individual has started or leads the existing social group. His peers and friends generally look up to him. However, they are not as willing to try new things and move in a different direction. The peers usually like to stick with the status quo. 

Lack of Understanding

Youthful lack of understanding pays no heed to consequences and denies reality. The younger generation has grown up thinking they are Superman, Spiderman, or Batman. They think with an “invincibility mentality.”

Two common thoughts pervade the young minds with this mentality. The first is “No one will see. We won’t get caught.” The other thought is “Even if I make a stupid choice, I can turn it around and everything will be alright.” 

Fear

Fear is the last driver into unwise choices. Unfortunately, in some cases, the fear of a parent’s wrath pushes teens to make unwise decisions. This can be the case in situations where teens drive under the influence or ride with an alcohol-impaired driver. They may know it is a stupid choice. However, thinking they might get away with it, the risk outweighs receiving the wrath of Mom or Dad. 

What Is The Commonality of Alcohol-Impaired Driving?

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cool young-man stop gesture

The centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report impaired driving among teens is down fifty-four percent as of 2011 in comparison to 1991.[i] The amount of teens engaging in drunk driving is trending down, being cut in half over the past twenty years. It is great that statistics show a decrease!

However, the CDC also reports one in ten high school teens still drive under the influence.[ii] It is also seventeen times more likely the one individual will die in a car crash while driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading of 0.08%, which is the legal limit for adults. You may be wondering, how easy is it to raise blood alcohol content above the legal driving limit?

To achieve a BAC of 0.1%, well above the legal limit for adults, is not a large task. Over a span of two hours, a one-hundred-fifty-pound male consuming five drinks, or a one-hundred fifteen-pound female consuming four drinks, will both reach a BAC reading near 0.1%.[iii] Explanation of BAC aside, it remains illegal for anyone under the age of twenty-one to consume any alcoholic beverage.

Persons under the age of twenty-one found driving with any alcohol in their system are subject to a one-year license suspension. Exceptions stand for those who consume alcohol as part of a religious service, or for those who take a prescription or recommended amount of medicine containing alcohol. 

Understanding the Consequences of Alcohol-Impaired Driving.

Now that we have skimmed over blood alcohol content, we can further examine the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol. Discussion with teens over the consequences may lead to higher awareness and forethought, helping teens to make the correct decision concerning an alcohol and driving or riding situation.

Legal consequences facing an underage drinker and driver are loss of driving privileges ranging from two to six years, possible imprisonment from one to three years, and a maximum fine of up to $25,000.[iv] This is near the cost of a degree program from some community colleges.

It is not fun paying a monthly bill for student loans even with a degree. It will certainly not be enjoyable paying a monthly bill for a joy ride one random evening. 

I have a friend who chose to make a wrong decision and drove under the influence. He went to prison for a year. He pays the monthly bill he has been charged. He is suffering through the inconvenience of driving restrictions. Employment has been hard for him to keep sustained, which increases the pressure he feels coming from the monthly reminder of his bad choice. 

While the loss of driving privileges, imprisonment, and large fines are hard consequences to swallow, the largest consequence involves the loss of life. Statistics are not in one’s favor for driving under the influence and surviving a car accident. Again, it is seventeen times more likely one will die if they have consumed only four beers in a two-hour timeframe. 

Loss of life does not only reach the immediate driver and passengers of the car. A grueling consequence of driving under the influence may be the taking of another’s life. The guilt of someone else paying the price for your own wrong decision can be overbearing. 

How Do You Discuss Alcohol-Impaired Actions with Teens?

Initiating a conversation concerning alcohol and related actions can be intimidating for both parent and child. It is not an exciting conversation. The younger teen may feel as being judged as probable to make wrong choices. The older adult may feel as though “my child would never make such a decision.” Inside you may be thinking, “I don’t need to discuss this with my child.” 

Yes, you do! 

Your son or daughter needs to be aware of. It is part of your role to impart wisdom and understanding to your child. They may not make the choice to drive under alcoholic influence, but they will be equipped to help their friends and peers not make the wrong choice. Remember, one in ten teens drive under the influence. Chances are they know someone who will consider and make that choice. 

Combat Peer Pressure, Foster Understanding, and Eradicate Fear with Love

“We need to have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us” (1 John 4:18 TLB).

This is a good starting point for parents who are hard on their children. Showing love for a decision to run towards you and away from harm compared to punishment for the first wrong choice should be the forefront in a parent’s thought. God has chosen to give us all love for running to Him and forsaking our wrong choice of sin. Parents should model the same behavior and expression of love towards their children. 

Communication plays another large factor. Walk your children through these scenarios before they face them. This will help foster their understanding of the situations and help them develop wisdom. Ask them what they would do in a situation where they either drank or had no ride home because their driver is intoxicated.

Along with their response, inform them about your response to their actions. Be sure to explain their actions may have been wrong which led to the situation, but they made the correct choice by calling you. Tell them you would be proud they came to you for help. 

Teach your children that choices arrive with consequences. This proactive measure should be employed well before the teenage years. Be careful not to overprotect your children. Let them make mistakes, and let them bear the consequences of those mistakes.

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24 NIV). 

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15 NIV).

“A spanking and a warning produce wisdom, but an undisciplined child disgraces his mother” (Proverbs 29:15 GW).  

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die” (Proverbs 23:13 NIV).

Final Note

Regardless of thoughts concerning adults and the mere consumption of alcohol is permissible or abominable, one thing is biblically clear concerning underage drinking (and driving for that matter). The Scriptures teach us that we must obey the law of the land.

“For the Lord’s sake, obey every law of your government: those of the king as head of the state, and those of the king’s officers, for he has sent them to punish all who do wrong, and to honor those who do right. (1 Peter 2:13-14).

If the law declares underage drinking is illegal, then it is against God’s teachings in Scripture for underage consumption. 

Driving under the influence is foolish, and sinful (it’s against the law). Therefore, relieve peer pressure by cultivating a healthy relationship with your child. Impart wisdom and understanding through conversation and discipline. Erase fear by rubbing love on their hearts with your actions and words. Last, of all, pray. Pray for your child to make wise decisions. Pray for your ability to teach your child. Go ahead, do it now – pray these words aloud: “God, give my child a mind full of knowledge, a heart full of understanding, and a life full of wisdom. Guide them through the paths pleasing to you. Teach me and help me to instruct and influence my children. Thank you” (Reference Luke 2:40, 52; Psalm 32:8; Proverbs 4:11). 


References:

[i] http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2012/dpk-teen-drinking-driving.html (accessed 12/03/2012)

[ii] http://m.cdc.gov/en/VitalSigns/teen-drinking-and-driving (accessed 12/02/2012)

[iii] http://www.pamf.org/teen/risk/alcohol/drunk_driving.html (accessed 12/02/2012)

[iv] http://www.isp.state.il.us/docs/5-431.pdf (accessed 12/04/12)

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