As the days count down to the holidays, the parties, gatherings, office events, and casual meet-ups start ramping up. Every time I turn around, someone else wants me to pencil them into my already-crammed social calendar. When I do find time to make it to these holiday gatherings, there are always a lot of delicious goodies, and I'm always being offered wine, beer, and holiday cocktails galore. Even when I'm feeling my most disciplined, it's really hard, especially when trying to be polite, to be responsible about drinking and driving. Even so, it is essential to be mindful about how your choices can affect not only your safety but also the safety of your family, friends, and other people who are traveling in your area.
That's why December has been designated National Driving Impaired Prevention Month! National Driving Impaired Prevention Month is a national initiative to help raise awareness about the dangers of operating a motor vehicle while impaired. It also presents a great opportunity for parents to discuss underage drinking and drinking and driving with teenage and college-aged children. Today, I've created a list of tips to help cut down on impaired driving and, as a holiday bonus, a list of topics and alternatives to discuss with your young adult about drinking and driving.
Tips for Cutting Down On Impaired Driving
- Always have a plan, even if you say you're not going to drink, even if you've sworn on a stack of Bibles that you'll never touch the stuff again. Have a plan. Whether it's having an emergency twenty for a taxi, taking the train or bus home, enlisting the help of a teetotaling copilot who can be your designated driver, or having the names and numbers at least three sober friends or family members you can call to pick you up, know what you're going to do before you get there.
- If you are hosting a holiday shindig and notice a friend of yours is about to drive home and they've had a little too much, offer to have them stay over, or offer to let them drive home with another sober partygoer and tell them they can pick their car up tomorrow. All my guests always know that when the liquor comes out, any or all of them are welcome to stay. (I even promise breakfast and hangover helpers the next morning).
- If you're driving and see someone driving all over the road, call 911 and report them. It's better if someone gets arrested instead of having them kill or seriously injure themselves or others.
- If someone is adamant about driving home drunk, enlist the help of a friend or two to try and convince them to try an alternative.
- If you know your friends or family drink a lot, collecting the keys as people enter the party is a great way to keep those who are unable to drive sober from getting behind the wheel.
Tips for Talking to Your Teen or Young Adult About Driving Impaired
- Be informed: Use opportunities like National Driving Impaired Prevention Month to start a conversation with your child about the dangers of drinking and driving or driving impaired (ex: texting, drugs). If you have firsthand knowledge, share it.
- Be positive: Don't blame your child, and resist the urge to nag them or drag out the conversation. When they make good choices, praise them and specifically state what about their behavior was so good. Let them know how proud their good decisions make you.
- Be understanding: Offer a statement that communicates that you understand your child's desires and perspective but also explain how you feel without blaming or becoming angry.
- Be clear: State the behaviors you want to see or the expectations you have clearly, like "I want you home by 10:30," not "Don't stay out late."
- Be open, especially about your feelings. Say how you feel (not what you think) and resist being judgmental. If your teen dismisses what you say, acknowledge their feelings but remind them about your desire to protect them and keep them safe.
- Be there: When I was younger, my parents instituted a "no questions asked" policy, where I could call them anytime and get picked up from anywhere and they would not be mad or ask any questions about why or what was going on until the next morning. This made me feel like even if I did mess up, I knew that my parents were more concerned about my safety than my mistakes. It also made me more conscious of my decisions when I was out with friends (still haven't needed to call them yet!). You know your child best, but offering this as an option may be a good way to not only protect and build trust with your child but also give them a way to get home safely no matter what.