The Fourth of July is a favorite holiday among teenagers, but it is also the most dangerous. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (compiled between 2006 and 2010), more teens are killed in traffic accidents on July 4th than any other day of the year. To help keep teens safe on the Fourth of July, the personal injury attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing have gathered safety tips, statistics and discussion ideas we hope you will use to open the lines of communication between you and your teen.
PREPARE YOUR TEEN: During the summer months, teenagers typically drive more, under less parental supervision. Teenaged drivers also often wait until the spring or summer to get their licenses. This means more inexperienced drivers on the roads during the long, lazy days of summer. Young drivers may put themselves in dangerous driving situations they aren’t prepared to handle, but parents can help teen drivers stay safe by discussing driving safety and setting clear rules for behavior before they get behind the wheel.
TALK OFTEN: Studies show that parents who talk to their kids about the dangers of drunk and distracted driving make a real impact on teen behavior. But parents must be firm and willing to set boundaries with their teens, and not be afraid of the word “NO” or “NEVER”. Parents should also know that there’s no hip or cool way to have a discussion with a teen about driver safety. It’s more important to discuss safety with your teen and endure a few eye rolls and “Oh, geez, moms!” than avoid the topic altogether and unwittingly place your teen in a dangerous situation.
SET CLEAR RULES: Teens with parents who set clear and firm rules for behavior (e.g. “NEVER drink and drive” or “NEVER ride in a car with someone who has been drinking or taking drugs”) are four times less likely to engage in dangerous behaviors, such as drinking and driving, than teens with less involved parents.
SIGN A CONTRACT: Have your teen sign a contract saying they will not drink and drive or ride with anyone who has been drinking or using drugs. Although it may seem inconsequential, taking those extra few moments to put an agreement in writing can help underscore the importance of not drinking and driving.
TALK ABOUT PEER PRESSURE: Talk with your teen about peer pressure. Let them know you that while you understand teens make mistakes, you are confident they have a good head on their shoulders. BUT, if they ever need a safe ride home, tell them they won’t lose their driving privileges as long as they call you for a ride.
However, if they drink and drive or ride with someone who has been drinking, make it clear that they WILL lose their driving privileges and license.
PRACTICE LINES: Help your child deal with peer pressure by giving them “lines” in case friends are pressuring them to drink or use drugs. Rather than telling your teen to “Just Say No”, encourage them to blame their abstinence on YOU. They can say things such as, “My mom will take away my license if I drink and drive,” or “My parents always find out what I’m doing.” If your teen is prepared to deal with tricky situations before they arise, they’ll feel confident and more capable of withstanding peer pressure.
MONITOR THEIR BEHAVIOR: Teens who know their parents consistently monitor their behavior are less likely to drink or engage in other risky behaviors. For example, when your teen comes home from a night out, plan to be awake and ready to give them a nice big hug. When you do, smell their breath to see if they’ve been drinking. If you smell breath mints or gum, make sure they aren’t trying to mask any other smells. Check to see if their eyes are blood shot and if they are talking and acting normally before they head off to their rooms for the evening.
KNOW WHERE YOUR TEENS ARE GOING: Know where your teens are going, and don’t assume the parties they are going to are free of alcohol and drugs. Although ninety-nine percent of parents say they would not serve alcohol at a kids party, twenty-eight percent of teens report that they’ve been at adult supervised parties where alcohol has been served. Other studies indicate that while eighty percent of parents believe their teenaged children attend parties where there are no drugs or alcohol available, half of teens surveyed say both drugs, alcohol or both are available at the parties they’ve attended.
If your teen says they are going to a friend’s house, check in with the child’s parents to make sure the party is supervised and that your child is indeed in attendance. Never serve alcohol to minors, and let your kids know you’ll be checking on their whereabouts when they tell you where they are headed.
KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN: Although parents should send a strong message that they won’t tolerate drinking and driving, they also need to keep the lines of communication open with their teens. If a teen needs a safe ride home, they should know they can call you, no questions asked, and that you’ll be there to pick them up. Make sure your teen can trust you, and that they realize their safety is far more important to you than rules or punishments.
SET UP A CODE WORD: Sometimes, kids who aren’t drinking or doing drugs are caught in unfortunate situations with kids who are. Although your teen made good choices, they may not feel comfortable calling to ask for a ride home in front of their friends out of embarrassment or fear. Talk with your teens about peer pressure and give them effective ways to cope before they find themselves in a tricky situation at a party.
Create a family password or phrase they can use if a friend has been drinking or using drugs. That way, you’ll know your teen needs a safe ride home and they won’t worry about losing face in front of their friends. (Suggest your teen say, “I think I’m coming down with the stomach flu”, or that they send you a simple text, such as 1-2-3.)
Keep Teens Safe On the Fourth of July: Facts and Statistics
- Next to the Fourth of July, June 10th, May 20th, August 14th and September 26th are the most dangerous day on the road for teenaged drivers.
- Statistics indicate that while overall traffic fatalities reached a record low in 2010, teenaged deaths in traffic accidents among 16 and 17 year olds increased by 11 percent during the first six months of 2011 when compared to the first six months of 2010 (Governor’s Highway Association report).
- One in five teens reports driving under the influence of marijuana.
- One in four teens say they would take a ride from another driver who was high on marijuana or prescription drugs.
- One in eight teens say being high on marijuana is not a driving distraction.
BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL: Teens look to their parents for cues on how to behave. If you handle alcohol responsibly, teens are more likely to do so when they reach adulthood. Don’t drink and drive or allow your children to drink and drive. Talk to them about driver safety. This will help keep teens safe on the Fourth of July and all the year through.
If your teen is injured in an automobile accident and you would like help understanding your legal rights, please contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing to schedule a free and confidential evaluation of your case. Attorneys in our Lewiston, Portland and downtown Portland law offices are available to answer your questions and will put our expertise and experience in the field of personal injury law to work for your family.
Our personal injury attorneys provide our blog as a service to our clients. They are meant to be purely informational.