The Risks of Impaired Driving for Teens

December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. If you are learning to drive or have a teen who is driving, this is the perfect time to talk about the dangers of impaired driving. Driving is an exciting rite of passage for many teens–a driver’s license presents the opportunity to move and explore without adult oversight. It’s an unprecedented taste of freedom and independence. But even the most conscientious of new drivers should consider the possibility of sharing the road with impaired drivers, along with the life-altering risks of impaired driving.

The Impact of Impaired Driving on Teens

According to the CDC, impaired driving is especially risky for teens. Drivers between the ages of 16-and-20 are 17 times more likely to die in a crash when they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%, compared to when they are sober. In 2010, one-in-five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their systems.

Impaired driving includes substances other than alcohol. Marijuana use also can affect a driver’s ability to react and respond to signals and sounds. Research presented in the MADD Cannabis Report indicates that 25% of seriously injured drivers tested positive for marijuana use. Furthermore, marijuana is, second to alcohol, the most frequently detected drug in drivers involved in a crash. 

Any amount of substance use has the potential to impair a person’s ability to drive. In the United States, the legal BAC for a driver is less than 0.08%. It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to have consumed any alcohol before driving. Laws regarding marijuana use while driving vary, but a large majority of states prohibit driving under the influence of marijuana. 

Impaired driving is too great a risk for anyone to take. The legal consequences are severe and include suspended driving privileges, monetary fines, and jail time. Much worse than any fine is the more urgent risk of impaired driving resulting in serious injury or death for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

Talking to Teens about Impaired Driving

Parents can help impact their teen’s decisions by talking to them about the importance of safe driving practices, including never riding with an impaired driver. Parents should also provide teens with a safe way to get home whenever needed, such as picking them up or providing them with an emergency taxi fund. Modeling safe driving habits is another way for parents to underscore the importance of non-impaired driving. 

The best solution to impaired teen driving, however, is making the choice to be drug-free. Encourage the teens in your life to refuse substance use to help them stay safe on the road.

Drug Free Clubs of America is on a mission to reduce the impacts of drug use in youth. Across the nation, drug and alcohol use is on the rise among teens. We provide students with practical tools and techniques to navigate peer pressure and choose a healthy lifestyle. Partnering with schools and communities, we offer preventative programming to meet students where they are. Through randomized drug testing, educational resources, a positive outlet, and a supportive community, we are changing school cultures and reducing alcohol, marijuana, vaping, and other detrimental activities among our members and the entire school body. Drug Free Clubs of America has more than 5,000 student and faculty/staff members and Clubs in more than 50 schools in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

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