Today’s parents face many challenges when it comes to protecting their teens from danger. Alcohol use, in particular, presents one of the greatest threats to teens’ health and safety – especially when it is combined with driving.
Here, we discuss the problem of underage drinking and the role it plays in teen driving accidents in New Jersey and across the country.
Statistics Show a High Rate of Underage Drinking
The National Institutes Of Health (NIH) reports that teenage drinking is a serious public health concern throughout the United States.
According to the NIH, a survey of teens revealed that:
- Teens are more likely to use alcohol than cigarettes or marijuana.
- Roughly 10 million young adults under the legal drinking age admit to using alcohol “regularly.”
- One third of all teens admit to consuming their first drink before the age of 15, while 60 percent of 18-year-olds admit to consuming alcohol at some point over the last month.
Binge drinking presents one of the greatest dangers. It involves drinking four or five drinks or more within the span of a few hours.
An estimated 90 percent of all alcohol consumed by teens is in the form of binge drinking. Over five million underage drinkers admit to binge drinking within the past 30 days, while 1.3 million admit to binge drinking “regularly,” the NIH reports.
Alcohol damages a teen’s physical and emotional health. It also puts the teen at an increased risk for accidents and injuries. The NIH reports that an average of 200,000 teens visit hospital emergency rooms and 5,000 die each year as the result of alcohol use.
Additionally, underage drinking can:
- Cause problems with school or law enforcement officials.
- Interfere with brain development, leading to depression, loss of enthusiasm in activities and potential problems in adult life.
- Decrease judgment and increase the likelihood of potentially risky behaviors and aggression.
- Increase the risk of being a victim of physical or sexual assault and violence.
- Heighten a teen’s risk of being involved in a drunk driving accident.
Underage Drinking and Drunk Driving Accidents
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens in the U.S. An estimated 3,000 teens die in crashes each year, while 200,000 more suffer injuries.
Roughly six teens die each day in motor vehicle accidents, the CDC reports. While teen drivers represent only seven percent of the driving population, they account for 11 percent, or roughly $10 billion, of all motor vehicle accident-related costs.
The CDC states that alcohol use is a factor in nearly 25 percent of all fatal teen car accidents, and roughly 20 percent of all teens admit to either having driven drunk or rode as a passenger in a vehicle driven by an underage drunk driver.
Unfortunately, teens are less likely than adults to recognize dangerous situations. They are also more likely to make critical errors that lead to serious and potentially life-threatening crashes.
Alcohol use increase the danger risks when teens drive. The CDC reports that alcohol consumption can lead to:
- Poor muscle coordination
- Slower response and reaction times
- Lack of concentration
- Reduced ability to process information
- Inability to maintain speeds
- Impaired perception.
What Can Parents Do About Underage Drinking?
In response to the increasing rates of underage drinking, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office issued a nationwide call to action, offering ways in which parents and communities can help address the problem of teen drinking and driving.
As the Surgeon General notes, the decision to engage in underage drinking is influenced by a teen’s family and friends. In order to get alcohol, teens generally must enlist the help of an adult.
Police and prosecutors can act aggressively to monitor and prosecute establishments that provide or serve alcohol to teens.
However, parents must take responsibility and limit their teen’s access to alcohol within their own home or other people’s homes. Simply put: Parents should never serve alcohol to their own teen or to the child’s friends. If they do so, it encourages dangerous and illegal behavior.
If you are concerned that your child is drinking, you can address the problem in the following ways:
- You can talk to your teen about alcohol use and discuss the potential effects and dangers listed above.
- You can monitor your teenager’s activities and restrict the teen from going places where alcohol is being served.
- You can stay involved in your teen’s life and be aware of situations going on at school or with the child’s friends.
The Surgeon General advises that community members have a duty to speak out against underage drinking. At Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., we take this duty seriously.
One of our attorneys, Steven Benvenisti, developed a powerful program about the dangers of underage drunk driving. He presents the program at schools throughout New Jersey and the country.
The program, “The Most Significant Case of My Entire Career,” is based on Benvenisti’s own experience. A drunk driver hit Benvenisti many years ago when he was a college student, causing him to suffer life-threatening injuries.
Benvenisti donates all honorariums and proceeds from the program and from a book he wrote about his experience to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey.
As part of his program, he gives the audience a “Contract for Life.” In the contract, students promise they will never drink and drive, get into a car with someone who has been drinking or allow a friend to drink and drive. Parents agree to pick up their children if they call for a ride without any questions asked.
Get Help from an Experienced New Jersey Car Accident Lawyer
If you or someone you care about is injured as the result of a teen drunk driving accident, contact Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C. Our New Jersey car accident attorneys will help you throughout this troubling time. We will work aggressively to pursue just compensation for you and your family.