The teenage years, a complicated, thrilling, yet potentially problematic period in a person’s life. These years are full of all sorts of new beginnings and freedom. Teenagers are known for living a thrilling type of lifestyle filled with risky behavior and bad decisions. It is an era to make mistakes and learn. Mistakes, although should never put anyone’s life at risk. At the age of 16 and a half a person can attain a driver’s license. Driving is a big step in the freedom aspect of life. It is easy for teenagers to forget that driving is not a right, it is a privilege that comes with many responsibilities.
Teenagers are consistently participating in thrilling activities that has the possibility of getting them in trouble but that is a risk they are willing to take. People are introduced to alcohol at a very young age, whether it be through a household environment, media, or peers. The use of alcohol starts at a very young age. The life of an adolescent is complicated and delicate. They are influenced by factors that they may not even notice. Adolescents engage in the use of alcohol for many different reasons. One study found that the physical and social environment, as well as the individual behavior of the adolescent was related to their alcohol consumption (Alden et al., 2017). These results correlated adolescent alcohol use as a way to make them feel better about themselves. Everyone says the teenage years are all fun and games but it can be one of the most stressful periods of a person’s life. Stress is directly correlated with an adolescents drinking behavior (McKay et al., 2013). There are stresses regarding the grades a person receives at school. There are stresses regarding a person’s home life, whether it be a divorce or poor treatment by their parents. And teenagers mostly stress about their social life. They may not feel like they are fitting in which leads to low self esteem, or they are simply searching for a thrilling experience. Teenagers so desperately want to fit in they are easily influenced by peer pressure. All of these stress categories lead to adolescents consuming alcohol. Adolescents are known for a fun Friday night participation in an environment where alcohol is involved. Binge drinking in adolescents is very common (Marcotte et al., 2012).
Since adolescents already have the mindset that they are invincible and thrive off of thrilling experiences, driving under the influence seems to be the perfect activity. They may choose to drive under the influence because they think have no other choice or they “aren’t that drunk”. “Traffic crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths in the United States” (Marcotte et al., 2012). Younger drivers are more likely to get in crashes than older drivers because of their inexperience or risky behavior. Everyone is guilty of running red lights or speeding through a yellow light, but to an adolescent it is thrilling. “1 in 4 car crashes with teenagers involve an underage drunk driver” (“Statistics”, 2018). Drunk driving seems so easily preventable which is why these statistics leave many people with an unsettling feeling.
Teen drinking and driving is not only a United States problem but a worldwide problem. In Italy, there was a study done on patients admitted to the emergency room with a positive blood alcohol concentration. More than 50% of the patients being treated were adolescents involved in car accidents (Allamani et al., 2013). In Italy, ⅓ of road fatalities involved alcohol (Allamani et al., 2013). It is a serious world wide issue that needs to constantly be addressed.
Thankfully, teen drinking has decreased since 1991 (“Vital Signs”, 2012). These decrease may be related to multiple different reasons. One reasoning for the decrease may be the parent and adolescent relationship. Being an adolescent is tough but being a parent to an adolescent is even more tough. There is a fine line, and specific rules you are supposed to follow when you are a parent but it does not always mean that your child is going to turn out perfect. Adolescents who search for excitement through risky behavior reported of driving under the influence or with someone driving under the influence (Pedersen & McCarthy, 2008). The decisions these adolescents make can be directly related to their personality which the parents can not control, but they can attempt to influence them in the best way possible.
Adolescents are influenced by their family on the decisions they make, especially their parents. Since 1990 the style of intensive parenting has increased (Arnett, 2018). This parenting style is where the parent is highly involved in their teenagers life. There is a direct correlation between the risks adolescents partake in and parental modeling/supervision (which word fits better). (Arnett, 2018). Intensive parenting includes the authoritative parenting style. This style is where the parent is involved with the teens life. This includes having rules and being supportive. The adolescent feels comfortable enough to be open to the parent and does not lie to them about what they are doing or where they are going. The strictness and involvement of parents in a teens life will decrease teens making risky driving choices (Laghi et al., 2013). The rules may include a curfew for the teen that is not the state law of a person who is driving on a junior operating license. Rules may include who the teen is allowed to drive when it is legal for them to drive peers. Another rule may be where they are allowed to go. Parents should be motivated to make agreements with their teenagers in attempt to prevent any risky behavior. Ultimately adolescents have the choice to decide what behavior they are going to partake in. If adolescents find themselves in situations that their parents were trying to avoid they can call on their parents for help if they are comfortable enough to do so. By being an authoritative parent you are willing to be their for the child and are affectionate towards them. If they get themselves involved in a situation such as making the choice to drink and drive, or getting in the car with someone under the influence. They will feel comfortable enough to call on a parent to help them get out of that situation. Parental involvement is only one of the reasons why teen drinking and driving has decreased.
There are many programs that have implemented to attempt to end teen drinking and driving. One of the organizations whose goal is to end drunk driving is “Mothers Against Drunk Driving”, also known as “MADD”.
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