At the age of 18, graduating from high school is usually the biggest accomplishment of a teens’ life up to that point, and prior to 18, getting a driver’s license is typically a teen’s biggest feat. Imagine you are graduating from high school. Completing thirteen years of school makes you feel carefree and eager to start the next phase of life, and your younger classmates follow your lead: taking advantage of every opportunity to party.
Now, imagine graduation night: the ceremony concludes, you and your classmates proceed to the after party where there is alcohol. There is so much to celebrate, and so much excitement about what the future holds. The only problem with this picture is that you still have that teenage mindset that you’re invincible. When the end of the night comes, you become more concerned with meeting curfew than protecting yourself and others from the dangers of driving under the influence. You consider calling your parents for a ride home, but you’re too afraid to admit to them that you have been drinking. Your best friend is facing the same dilemma, but you both decide that you’ll be fine—you live just down the road.
It’s the morning after graduation and the greatest party of your life. You pick up the phone to call you best friend to discuss last nights’ events. No answer. You call their house phone. Still no answer, so you go about your day. Before noon, you receive the dreaded call that your best friend was in a horrible car accident the night before and is in the hospital in critical condition. Even worse, one of their vehicle’s passengers has already been declared dead. Even if your friend makes it through the night, their life will be forever changed due to their medical condition, as well as the possibility of going to prison for 15 years if convicted of vehicular homicide.
Although this is a fictitious scenario, it represents an unfortunate reality that too many high school students have to face after events like graduation and prom, as statistics show that teens are more likely to drink after such events. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), teenage drivers are at a higher risk of involvement in a fatal alcohol-related automobile accident than the rest of the population.
Unfortunately, driving under the influence is not the only teen driving issue. Teens are more likely to underestimate dangerous driving situations, regularly speed, drive under the influence of alcohol, drive without a seatbelt, and become distracted by cell phones (i.e.-texting while driving) than older drivers. In fact, the NHTSA also reported that just under one fifth of car crash fatalities involved young drivers.
As a parent myself, I understand how scary it can be to let your children behind the wheel of an automobile. However, it’s up to all of us to educate our teens on the dangers of distracted driving as well as the dangers and consequences of DUI. By preparing and educating teens on the dangers of distracted driving and driving under the influence, we can help our teens drive safely. It is imperative to understand that one bad decision can ruin a person’s life.