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It’s 2017, and iPhones are everywhere. As a result, distracted driving is the talk of the town. According to some sources, it’s even more dangerous than drinking and driving, which is on the decline. However, it’s also important to remember the dangers that drinking and driving pose to our teenagers.

Distracted driving kills 8 people per day, while drinking and driving kills an average of 24 people per day. It gets worse. According to the Center for Disease Control, teenagers are 17 times more likely to die from an accident when they have a blood alcohol concentration of .08% (the legal limit for adults). Now for the good news. Since 1991, the number of teens who admit to drinking and driving has decreased by 51%. The Center for Disease Control attributes this decline to four factors:

  1. Minimal Legal Drinking Age:
  2. Zero Tolerance
  3. Graduated Driver Licensing:
  4. Parental Involvement

Minimal Legal Drinking Age laws restrict alcohol consumption for all individuals under 21, while Zero Tolerance laws make it illegal for minors to drive with any blood alcohol content. These laws are present in all 50 states. Graduated Driver’s Licensing laws grant additional driving privileges as drivers gain experience. These programs include provisional licenses and learner’s permits. They are also present in all fifty states, but they differ widely. Click here for a guide to GDL programs in every state.

Parental Involvement is the biggest the biggest variable by far. So, how can you keep your teenager safe on the road? First, you need to accept that your child may drink. You also need to assure them that you will be there for them if and when they run into trouble. This could mean paying for an Uber, ordering a cab, or picking them up. The goal is to dissuade your teenager from drinking and driving by offering a better alternative: judgement-free help.

You can also help them build good habits while they earn their learner’s permit. A driving contract is a perfect way to establish guidelines and encourage good driving habits. An effective driving contract should include guidelines for your child, but it should also describe the consequences for breaking those guidelines. Your contract could include some of the following guidelines:

  • Never drink and drive
  • Never text and drive
  • Always wear a seat belt
  • Always obey speed limits
  • Only drive between the hours of 6:00 AM and 12:00 PM
  • Only drive with a maximum of one (1) other teenager

Possible consequences might include grounding, additional chores, or the inability to drive for a set time. Guidelines and consequences will differ for every family. Just make sure to communicate openly with your spouse and your child as you draft a contract that you can all agree on.

If your budget has room for a car, you can also purchase a teen-friendly vehicle. Used cars will give you the most bang for your buck, especially because many teenagers will crash within their first month on the road. If you’re going shopping, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a comprehensive guide to purchasing a vehicle for your teenager. Here are a few of the takeaways:

Above all, the most important thing you can do is to model safe behavior. If your child sees you talking on the phone, driving under the influence, or driving recklessly, they’ll learn from you. As you continue into 2017, remember that you are the biggest influence on your teen’s safety. Drinking and driving is already on the decline. Keep it up, and we will eventually eliminate DUI. Distracted driving, you’re next.

Contributor: Jayson Goetz is a young writer whose work primarily focuses on educating readers about the effects of science and technology on today’s society.

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    For every parent that is struggling with their teenager - 18 comes very fast. A must read via Grown and Flown ...

    THIS IS ADOLESCENCE: 18 18 is a year overflowing with contradictions. Eighteen wants to be a child forever and yet he cannot wait to grow up. He loves his house and cannot wait to leave it. Eighteen is our teen living in our home and in the same momentous year, an adult residing in another state. On the eve of his 18th birthday it seems almost as if nothing has changed and then one morning in August everything is different. 18 is a year of contradictions, of being our child at home and an adult living in another state. 18 is the year I have dreaded since the day he was born. It is the year that I will begin to know him a little less, the year when more of his life happens away from our family than within it. But 18 is also the year I am most grateful for, that as his childhood ends it has been filled with joy and he has thrived wrapped in our love and that of his brothers. Eighteen cannot believe he is 18. When I tell him that he must register for the selective service and to vote, that I can no longer deal with his doctor, the health insurance company or his college housing office, he is taken aback. Eighteen wants to be an adult, but not if it means a lot of paperwork. Eighteen wants to spend every spare minute with his friends. He dreads the day when one by one they will leave for college and he tells me how much he will miss them, how much their closeness has meant to him and that he hopes they will stay that way forever. While I am indebted to these wonderful boys who have taught my son so much about friendship, I ignore the tightness in my throat and do not say that I feel the same way about him. Eighteen needs to show me he is a grown up, even at the times when I know that he is not. When he is unhappy with me he reminds me that soon he will be gone and then I will not be able to tell him what to do. Eighteen tells me this both because he wants me to acknowledge his independence and because he wants to hurt me that little bit, because in getting ready to go, some small part of him is hurting too. When Eighteen defies me, I can see that my arsenal for controlling him is severely depleted. Eighteen is brimming with confidence. His confidence comes from the physical strength and stamina of youth, from being surrounded by those who have known and loved him most or all of his life and from the fact that we may all be at our most beautiful the summer of our 18th birthdays. Eighteen loves senior year in high school and life at the top of the social food chain. He loves knowing most of the teachers and coaches in his high school and the way they have begun to treat him and the other seniors like young adults. While I delight in seeing him so at ease in his world, I also know that there is nobody less secure than a college freshman. Eighteen thinks the drinking age is 18. I am the bearer of bad news. Eighteen thinks he should not have a curfew. I bear more bad news. Eighteen’s personal hygiene is impeccable. He has never needed to be reminded to shower or brush his teeth. He rarely leaves a mess in the house and usually cleans any garbage from my car when he borrows it. Yet, Eighteen still leaves every article of dirty clothing on his bedroom floor. He has been told 4,287 that there is a laundry hamper in his room. Fearing that he has forgotten, I remind him again. He wonders why I do this, and so do I. Surely there is a point where I should give up, but how will I know when that is? In the summer before he leaves, Eighteen wants to push his father and me away and hold onto us at the same time. I am told that as the reality of their leaving begins to confront some kids, they “soil the nest,” at times giving parents some of their very worst behavior. I try to remember that this is temporary and that if I have learned anything about parenting it is that a markedly changed adolescent will be returned to me come the winter holidays. Eighteen lies on the floor petting his dog. I am in the next room, but I can hear him telling her that he will miss her. He does not remember life before this dog and is old enough to fully understand that this means that in the coming years he will experience the loss of her. He feels love and he feels fear. He has heard that kids get “the call” at school about their dogs and he does not want that call. I can tell Eighteen what to do and what not to do, until he leaves for college. But that would be foolish. We are on a trial run for adulthood, so I let him make most of the decisions and step in only when I cannot help myself. I try not to treat him like the child he no longer is, he tries not to act like the obnoxious teenager he no longer is. Most of the time we are successful, sometimes we fail. Eighteen leaves little gashes on my heart, like stinging paper cuts, as time winds down and we no longer have months or years but rather weeks and days. I miss him before he is even gone and I grieve once he has left. Eighteen drifts slowly away the summer after graduation and then one morning I load up the car and he is really gone, and I can do nothing more than help him on his way. www.facebook.com/grownandflown/

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