As we head into the fall season, Houstonians are still in recovery mode from from last month’s Hurricane Harvey. However, time marches on, and the treasured rituals of autumn continue to play out in football stadiums all over Texas.
Soon homecoming season will be upon us. Excited high school students will don their finest formal wear accompanied by wrist corsages for the girls and colorful boutonnières for their favorite fellows. Friends will gather and make plans to meet up for the big game and later, dinner dates and the main event — the dance itself.
Parents’ right to worry
As responsible parents, it’s likely that you are worried about your kids being negatively impacted by impaired driving. Your son or daughter may be a fine and upstanding teenager, but problems can develop whether he or she drinks alcohol. Your teen may be riding in a car with a date or another driver who has imbibed. Even if that scenario isn’t correct, you realize that some of the dance attendees will engage in underage drinking and driving — and your child will be on the roads with their irresponsible and intoxicated counterparts.
There is some good news, however. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teenage drunk driving among teens is far less prevalent than in the past. In fact, data indicates that since 1991, incidences of impaired driving by underage teens has decreased by over half.
That doesn’t mean that kids can’t get themselves into a jam out on the road. Car accidents remain the primary cause of death for those age 16 to 19. Nearly 30 percent of those fatalities involve alcohol consumption.
Other factors increase risk
The parental advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) point out that many fatal accidents occur due to distracted driving when teens text behind the wheel.
What is a disturbing reality is that some teens across the country will not survive to walk through the door after their homecoming dance. Statistics don’t lie, and unfortunately, either their own drunken driving or someone else’s will snuff out young lives on what would otherwise be a memorable occasion.
Parents, you have preventative roles to play
Parents need to step up communication with their teens. Discuss the dangers of underage drinking and driving. Let them know that this is not acceptable, just as riding with an intoxicated driving is unacceptable.
Many parents draw up contracts with their teens that clearly spell out the consequences of drinking and driving, e.g., being forbidden to drive either their own or the family’s car. But don’t stop there. Tell them the grim statistics they face and encourage them to make responsible choices.
Tell your child that he or she can call you at any time, from any place and in any condition, and you will either pick them up yourself or arrange their safe transport home. This is far better than driving impaired or riding with someone else who is. Consequences will not be discussed that night but will be meted out after everyone has had a good night’s sleep.
Protect your teen’s rights after an accident
If your teenager gets injured in an accident on homecoming night as a result of another driver’s negligence, as the parent of a minor, you will have to pursue civil justice by filing a claim or a lawsuit on his or her behalf.