Too young to drink. Too dumb not to drive.
Nathan Gentry’s parents will not be watching him walk at Brownsburg High School’s graduation ceremony this Friday, nor will they experience the proud joy of dropping him off at Indiana University this fall to begin the next chapter of his life. Instead, Nathan’s parents will have to close a chapter in their lives when they lay Nathan to rest today.
Just one week before graduation, Nathan was killed in an auto accident that also put four of his friends in the hospital.
What’s even more tragic is the confirmation that alcohol and marijuana were both factors in a devastating ending to a promising young life, something that
could have should have been prevented. This is a tragic reminder of the consequences of drinking and driving — particularly when you have a novice driver who by all accounts is also a novice drinker.
Car accidents due to inexperienced driving is understandable as well as somewhat unavoidable — it’s simply a fact of life than can be tolerated. But when a driver decides to get behind the wheel with distractions, booze and selfish decisions their car becomes a “loaded weapon” — is intolerable and 100% preventable.
Teens are at far greater risk of death in an alcohol-related crash than the overall population, despite the fact that they are below the minimum drinking age in every State. Among 15- to 20-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2006, 31 percent of the drivers who were killed had been drinking and 77 percent of these drivers were unrestrained. 1
Graduation season is upon us, which means parents need to step up their game and talk their teens about alcohol.
It’s not just good parenting — it’s a matter of life and death. While I don’t condone underage drinking, the reality is that it’s going to happen — something I am personally guilty of. While my mom didn’t support the idea of underage drinking, but the woman also wasn’t an idiot. What was most important to my mom was to make me aware that if I drank she wouldn’t necessarily ring my neck…unless I made the piss poor decision to get behind the wheel. She instilled in me that a parents anger over their child’s reckless decisions is generated solely out of love and protection, rather than just trying to be mean. I credit my mom’s realistic approach to the dangers she knew I would face as the reason I survived my teenage years. (Thanks mom!)
Sure, talking to your teen isn’t easy — but then again, neither is saving lives
Set the standards by talking to your teen about safety issues and the rules that you are setting. Explain each one of your rules and the consequences for breaking it. Some guidelines should include:
- Defining acceptable behavior – Different approaches work for different families, chose what works for your family and what you think will resonate with your teen
- Setting clear consequences for their actions – Lay out a clear message of what your expectations are, and lay out a clear message of the consequences if those expectations aren’t met
- Be aware of personal liability – While your teen’s safety is the driving factor in this effort, it is important for them to know the legal ramifications as well. Additionally, it is also important for adults to also be aware of the social host liability risks.
Communicate with your teen freely and frequently — constant communication is the most important factor in helping keep your teen safe!
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1. NHTSA Teen Drivers | Access to Alcohol