THE DANGER SEASON FOR TEEN DRIVERS
May 11, 2014
HURON, S.D. – In the midst of attending parties and celebrating, the most important aspect of graduation night – a teen’s safety – can sometimes get lost in the excitement. Parents may not be able to monitor teens the entire night, but an open dialogue can help keep him or her safe without spoiling the fun.
Graduation is a milestone event, but underage drinking, illegal drugs and driving under the influence can turn a memorable night into a dangerous one, warns Jesse Van Heukelom, MD, pediatrician at HRMC Physicians Clinic. “Any kind of alcohol is bad in your child’s system,” explains Dr. Jesse. “Do not tolerate underage drinking at all, even with a friend or family or on one special occasion. If you let it be acceptable once, your child may push the boundaries and do other things that are not legal.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal car crashes had been drinking, and one in four teens report riding within the last month with a driver who had been drinking.
“A lot of people will justify driving home from an evening party because there’s nobody else on the road, but a lot of traffic accidents, especially with alcohol, are single-vehicle accidents,” Dr. Jesse says.
Even for teens who usually exercise good judgment, graduation night can be a struggle. Peer pressure can cause normally well-behaved high schoolers to make poor decisions and engage in risky behaviors, such as drunk driving. However, parents have more influence over their teens’ decisions than they may realize. According to The Partnership at Drugfree.org, research shows that kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs at home are 50 percent less likely to use.
“Parents, you need to be open, honest and available to your kid and not be judgmental, especially when it comes to alcohol and drugs,” says Dr. Jesse. “A child who finds himself or herself in an unexpected situation should feel comfortable calling the parents; the parents, in a nonjudgmental way, should go pick up the child with no questions until maybe in the morning when everyone has had a chance to sleep on the situation.”
Clear communication with teens is the best way to reduce his or her risk for these situations. Discuss alcohol, drugs, safe driving and sex with your teen openly, and make sure you cover the following topics:
- Advise your teen not to ride with anyone who has been drinking or using drugs.
- Agree on several mandatory check-in times throughout the night.
- Ask your teen what he or she expects from the night and whether he or she has any concerns.
- Establish a curfew with your teen that complies with curfew laws for minors in your community.
- If your child says he or she is going to a friend’s house, contact the friend’s parents to verify that they are aware of those plans.
- Know your teen’s plans for the evening, including the people he or she will be with and where the group will be at any given time.
- Let your teen know you will be available to help if he or she feels uncomfortable or unsafe at any time.
- Make sure you can contact your child at all times while he or she is out. You may want to ensure your teen has a cell phone for the night if he or she does not already have one.
- Talk with your child about potential temptations that may arise, and suggest appropriate responses to these situations.UL>
Be sure to ask him or her about the experience. Praise your child for making responsible decisions, and discuss any difficult situations he or she encountered during the night. These tips are helpful at any time and should be discussed with your teen on a regular basis.
Dr. Jesse sees patients in Suite 107 of the Professional Arts Building located at 530 Iowa Ave. SE. Appointments can be made by calling (605) 352-6500. Dr. Jesse will relocate to the new HRMC Physicians Clinic at 534 Oregon Ave. upon its completion. For more information about Dr. Jesse, visit www.huronregional.org and click on “Physician Finder.”
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