Over the last two weeks, I’ve focused on helping your teen driver learn how to deal with 9 complex driving scenarios. The reason is, 67% of teen drivers don’t know what to do in a complex driving situation, according to the results of a study conducted by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. Identifying and practicing what to do when these and other driving situations arise help them to respond safely instead of being a “deer in the headlights.”
There’s one more area teens have that parents need to address; what to do in alcohol related situations. For example, 25% of all teens don’t know what to do if someone was drinking alcohol in the vehicle. 28% don’t know how to get home if their driver has been drinking. In 2011, 32% of teen drivers killed in car accidents had a blood alcohol content of 0.01 or higher.
If you’re a parent of a teen driver or a teen who will be driving soon, ask yourself, how do you want them to handle these situations? Many teens will drink alcohol (remember your own teen life experience), and some will not. Even if your teen doesn’t drink, many of their peers will, so again, how do you want your teen to handle these kind of situations?
I’d like to suggest giving your teen a “free pass.” The concept of a free pass is simple, if your teen is faced with a situation that is unsafe, they may call you at any time, day or night, and you’ll pick them up with no questions asked regardless of where that may be. This means you don’t ask questions, judge them, judge their friends, nag, shame, or guilt them about the situation, who was there, or what they were doing. Your teen gets to determine whether to tell you or not.
The purpose of the free pass is to keep your teen from getting behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking or getting into a car of someone who has. It gives them a safe way out of a situation made difficult by peer pressure. A free pass also communicates you love them and you’re in their corner. But it will only work if you keep your word. Break your promise and they’ll likely never call again and that could result in a situation no parent would ever like to face.
One of the questions I’ve been asked is whether or not providing a free pass promotes or encourages a teen to drink? I don’t think so. I think teens will either drink or not, and this may largely be influenced by whether or not the parent(s) drink. My perspective is, I’d rather offer a free pass and discuss strategies on how to cope in these type of situations than to have them endanger themselves or others because they were too afraid to call me.
What do you think? Share your thoughts, suggestions comments, and experiences with me on our Google + and Facebook pages. I’d love to hear from you!