Save Our Teen Drivers

Advocating for driver's education changes. Educating the public on the problem. Finding a solution that saves lives.

Mock DUI crashes aim to influence teens

Posted by lapearce on March 24, 2009

Even though the drinking age in the US is 21, and the under aged drinking and driving laws tend to be incredibly strict, 2,000 teens die each year in alcohol related crashes nation-wide.

So, once again, it is a private organization, and not the DMV, trying to do something about it. MADD is doing drunk driving crash simulations in Orange and Villa Park high schools this week to demonstrate to teens what can happen when you mix alcohol with driving.

The simulations are powerful. People lying “dead” in pools of blood, fire fighters cutting people out of cars with Jaws of Life. The hope is that this fear factor will influence teens to not drink and drive.

While I respect and truly admire the DMV’s strong stance on under aged drunk driving, they could do more. Like many other driving laws, they work based on punishment for bad actions, instead of education of what not to do. They hope that the punishment will deter the crime, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way with many new drivers.

According to a 2006 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teens need to get this message. To quote: “The teen participants do not see anything wrong with underage drinking and very little wrong with driving after having consumed just a beer or two. Many believe they can tell when they are too drunk to drive.” Even though they felt they could tell when someone was too drunk too drive, none of them could list the symptoms.

Many of the kids in the focus group said that they had driven after drinking. One of the main reasons why they did was because they were afraid to tell their parents or had no other way home. Again, time to get the parents involved! A teen driver calling their parents when they’ve had something to drink will result in far less punishment than the same teen driving drunk and getting pulled over or involved in a crash.

Symptoms are easy to teach. It is something they should be able to identify. However, I  feel that .08 or .02 are really arbitrary, what does that mean to anyone who has never used a Breathalyzer? There needs to be another way to describe having too much to drink. There needs to be more in-school education like what MADD is doing, as well as use of beer goggles to show how much skills are impaired when drunk. Until you really show kids what can happen, I don’t think they will get it. There are also a number of safe ride organizations out there that can get a drunk kid home safely without involving the parents. These things should be spoken about. We can’t treat under aged drinking like we teach sex in school. If we pretend it doesn’t happen and hope it won’t happen we are doing a great disservice to these children. We need to acknowledge that teenagers drink and address the problem. That is the only way it will go away.

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