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Yes, parents have a real impact on preventing teen drunk driving

Of all the factors at play in the car accident rate among teen drivers, parental involvement is by far the most important, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, or GHSA. For parents who discount such statements as nonsense meant to make them feel good, here’s one statistic that may change your mind: when supportive parents set driving rules and monitor their kids’ behavior, teen drivers are 71 percent less likely to drive drunk.

That same type of helpful parental involvement also cuts the risk of teens using cell phones behind the wheel by 30 percent and makes them 50 percent more likely to wear seat belts. In fact, researchers found, when parents who make rules and stand behind them, teen drivers cut their overall accident risk in half.

What rules are most effective at reducing teens’ risk of drunk driving accidents and other serious car wrecks? The restrictions set up in graduated driver’s licensing, or GDL laws. According to the GHSA, the adoption of GDL programs has reduced teen car accidents by 20 to 40 percent.

“But GDL isn’t just a state or police program, it’s a parent program,” stressed a spokesperson for the group.

In Texas, our graduated driver’s license program involves two phases. In the first six-month phase, new drivers receive instruction permits and must have a licensed driver at least 21 years old in the front seat while driving.

The second six-month phase begins once the driver has completed the first phase, has completed a driver education program and has reached a minimum age of 16. During this phase, the driver can either have a licensed driver of at least 21 in the front seat or comply with these driving restrictions:

  • No more than one passenger under age 21 who is not a family member
  • No driving between midnight and 5 a.m. except for work, school or medical emergencies

The teen passenger limitation and nighttime driving ban have been shown to be effective at reducing accidents. New drivers, especially boys, are more prone to poor driving behavior at night and with friends in the car.

“Parents must recognize this and say no to their teens engaging in these unsafe practices. GDL helps them do that.”

Parents, you do have an effective role to play in keeping your kids safe from distracted and drunk driving, so take charge.

Source: Forbes, “Teens With Parents Who Set Driving Rules 71% Less Likely To Drive Drunk, GHSA Says,” Tanya Mohn, Oct. 22, 2013

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