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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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