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Cops, Cost, Carnage Deter Teens From Driving Drunk

There are many dangers and risks associated with underage drinking, but drunk driving is one of the worst. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-quarter of teens admit to having gotten into a car with a drunk driver within the previous month. Eight percent of teens say that they drove after drinking in the past month. In 2010, nearly one-quarter of the teenaged drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking. If we can prevent teens from drinking and driving, many lives could be saved. But what works?

Deterrent by Law Enforcement

The main way in which our society attempts to deter drunk driving by any age group is with punitive measures. The costs of being caught driving drunk can be very high. There are fines, legal fees, jail time and possible revocation of a driver’s license. Is this enough to stop people, particularly teens, from engaging in this dangerous practice? According to researchers, the answer is no. Knowing what the consequences may be from law enforcement and the court system is not enough to deter most people who are already drunk from getting behind the wheel.

However, when the risk of getting caught is elevated, the incidence of drunk driving does go down. A study showed that the most important factor for deterrence is the perception of the likelihood of getting stopped. If people who are drinking believe that there is a good chance they will be caught—because of checkpoints, for instance—they are less likely to get behind the wheel.

Financial Costs

Another way in which teens seem to be deterred from drunk driving is when the financial costs of driving are too great. If they can’t afford to drive, they can’t drive drunk. This phenomenon was seen in 2012 when gas prices reached an all-time high. Drunk driving among teens went down as prices went up. The potential financial costs of having a driver’s license taken away may also cause teens to stop and think before drinking and driving. Many teens rely on the income from a part-time job, and without the ability to get to it, would lose that money.

Reality Checks

Schools and local governments attempt to deter teenage drinking and driving by giving kids so-called reality checks. This involves sharing stories of tragic car crashes, displaying mangled cars from accidents on school property, or in some innovative locations using “beer goggles” to show kids just how much drinking impairs their abilities. The goggles can usually be provided by local law enforcement and mimic the effects of being drunk. While still sober, kids can see just how difficult it would be to walk and drive safely when drunk. Whether these reality check methods truly deter drunk driving remains to be seen, but helping teens to understand the consequences of their bad choices certainly can’t hurt.

Influence of Parents 

Perhaps the most important deterrent for drunk driving, and underage drinking in general, is the influence of parents. Experts suggest that parents talk to their children about the dangers of all risky behaviors, including drinking and driving. Parents should provide structure at home, help instill self-confidence in their children and demonstrate good choices by example to deter teens from engaging in risky habits.

Posted on February 17th, 2015
Posted in Drunk Driving

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