Drinking and Driving: Why Teens Do It

teens and alcohol, teen drivers, drunk drivingAra is a 16-year-old from Edmonds, WA. She enjoys blogging, spending time with her family and hopes to somehow incorporate her passion of writing into what she does in the future.


Vanessa: What are some current statistics on teens drinking and driving?

  • According to the National Traffic Safety Administration and the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 31% of all 15 to 20 year olds had been drinking when killed in a car accident, and 25% of them were alcohol impaired. (http://www.aboutdwi.com)
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports twenty-three percent of teenage drivers in fatal car crashes possessed a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) level above the legal limit of .08 on the breathalyzer test (http://www.aboutdwi.com)
  • Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and one out of three of those is alcohol related. (http://MADD.org)


Vanessa: In what circumstances do teens usually drink and drive?


Teenager drunk-driving is usually the most prevalent after parties or social events involving alcohol and groups of friends. Under circumstances like these, it is more likely for teens to drink and drive for a few reasons. The first one being that they see others around them or at the party driving home drunk or they’ve heard about other people driving drunk and making it home safely and so they assume that there’s no harm in doing it too. Also, a lot of teens go to parties without parents knowing, and then they proceed to get drunk and are too afraid to call home and ask for a ride for fear of the consequences.


Vanessa: What can parents do to prevent their teens from drinking and driving?


Be connected with your teen. Research has shown that the number one reason teens refuse to drink alcohol is that they worry about what their parents will think of them (stanfordhospital.org). By being involved and doing little things like checking up on your teen and letting them know you truly do care about their safety, you can help prevent them from drunk driving. Also, it is a good idea to have your teen lay out before hand where exactly they are going, the details (such as who’s going to being there and how they are going to get home), that way you can set up a plan, such as agreeing to meet them when they come in and have a conversation with them, that way they will be less inclined to drink and drive. Lastly, make sure that you let them know that they should not be afraid to give you a call and ask for a ride if they do end up making a mistake and drinking.


Vanessa: What should parents do if they catch their teens drinking and driving?

First of all, all though this one seems obvious, educate them on drunk driving and the consequences that come along with it; give them materials and show them examples and scenarios of how they could have possibly fatally impacted their life or somebody else’s. In addition, remind them that you have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to the illegal use of alcohol. Lastly, do not let them off the hook. Make sure that you work out some sort of punishment or consequence with your teen (this one is unique to how you parent so it is important to work out something that will work for your teenager since you know them best) to show them that what they did was not right at all and that they should never repeat their actions.


Photo Credit: Tobascopanini from Flickr

Teen Trend: Vodka Gummy Bears?

Written by: Wendy Sunderlin, Youthologist and Founder of Teen Life Talks

I recently heard about a trend happening in our adolescent culture.  The concerning trend is called “Drunken Gummies”.  Most of us have heard of “Jell-O shots” as tasty, easy ways to consume alcohol, but now teens are soaking gummy bear candies in liquor and using this method to get drunk. The booze soaked candies are relatively odorless and the person eating them has no idea how much alcohol he/she is actually ingesting.  In less than a month, a “how to” video on YouTube had over 17,000 views on how to make these candies. Teens have been using this drinking method because the alcohol is hidden and eating gummy bears in school, with friends, or even in your car seems innocuous.  Authorities across the country are hoping parents will stay aware of this trend that is increasing in popularity.  Parents, one thing to look for if you see your child or other children eating gummy bears, is the size of the candy.  Booze-soaked gummies tend to look bloated and larger in size than the regular gummy bear due to the liquor content inside.

Similar stories are swirling about teen girls and boys soaking tampons in alcohol and inserting them into their bodies, either vaginally or rectally, with hopes that the alcohol will have quicker absorption into their bloodstreams than through drinking the liquor.  There have been documented cases of teens and young adults going to hospitals with alcohol poisoning just from utilizing this technique.   Likewise, rather than the traditional beer bong you’d experience at a college party, kids are sticking the tubing into their rectums with the hopes of getting a quicker effect from the alcohol.  This technique is called “butt chugging” and some teens are turning to this method hoping to avoid having alcohol on their breath if they were caught by their parents or the police.

Naturally, there are many concerns and consequences to these trends.  First, teens are uncertain of how much alcohol they are actually consuming using these methods.  There is no gag reflex that lets you know that you cannot handle any more alcohol in your system.  Second, using a tampon, which holds an estimated shot’s-worth of alcohol, can be absorbed directly into one’s system quickly.  If the individual becomes sick, passes out, or needs medical assistance, health care professionals may not know that they have to look in those areas which may delay treatment.  Third, vaginal or rectal irritation can result from using this technique.  Finally, teens seem to be misinformed about how this method might work for them.  While the alcohol will be absorbed directly into their bloodstream, it does not prevent them from passing a breathalyzer test.  These tests assess how much alcohol is in one’s bloodstream, not just on the breath.

So what can parents do to prevent their teen from trying out these concerning teen trends?  Start the dialogue with your teen using open-ended questions such as, “I heard about these scary teen trends happening in high schools and colleges across the country (explain the trend).  Have you heard about this?  What do you know about this trend?”  Then, take the opportunity to educate your teen about alcohol consumption and look for opportunities to correct any misinformation or misperceptions your teen may have.

This guest post is by: Wendy Sunderlin. To continue following teen trends, visit www.teenlifetalks.com or join the Facebook page for ongoing discussions, articles, and studies.

Flikr Image From: Ford

The Worst Mistake: Teen Drinking

 teens and alcohol, drunk teens, underage drinking,

Brooke is a 15-year-old from Sunnyvale, CA. She enjoys dancing, traveling, studying languages, and her dream is to study, work, or live abroad.

I woke up that morning two summers ago next to one of my best friends. There was a stench in the air, it completely filled my room. I walked to my bathroom to freshen up and the memories came flooding back in. We had been drinking the night before, and I had stains on my carpet to prove it.  It was our first time, so I suppose we didn’t exactly know our limits. It seemed that the second we were both done showering (and removing the chunks from our hair!) that my mom came home. Of course, I thought of a cover story quickly and told her that the four various vomit splotches on my floor were from my friend. She was “sick”.  Due to the lack of evidence, my mom was forced to believe us- we thought we would never be found out! Then, a couple months later my one and only mistake caught up with me- I had left the water bottle filled with vodka in my dresser.  I felt like I was never going to hear the end of it! It took my mom about 6 months to allow me to see my friend again.

All in all, I think it could’ve been handled in a much smoother fashion. Now I’m not saying that it was only my parents who handled it badly, but it was me too. I didn’t ever want to discuss it; I just wanted it to disappear. I knew I made a mistake, I felt bad about it, and I had apologized and promised to prove it to my mom that I would be well behaved (which I was until this point). But my mother doesn’t let things go. That’s where she goes wrong.  If she wouldn’t have raised her voice, I might’ve decided to talk about it. I’m not saying teenagers shouldn’t have to pay for their mistakes, but if you get too upset, they’ll never want to tell you anything again. My mom has always used that typical line: “You know you can always tell me anything, right? It doesn’t matter how bad the situation is, I want you to know you can trust me.” Unfortunately, now I feel like I never want to tell her about anything serious ever again. I’m scared of her reaction, and I don’t want her to define me by the mistakes I’ve made. I don’t want to be held back, disciplined, and reminded of it forever. My mom being mad about it all the time makes me not even want to be in the same house; and sometimes it makes me want to be more rebellious.  She seems to view me like a bad kid now. If there’s no way to change her mind no matter how well I’ve behaved, then I might as well not worry about what she thinks since she would’ve been thinking about it any way.

The lesson that I’d like parents to get from this? Simply listen.  Talk to them as if you were a guidance counselor, don’t scream and yell, because that won’t solve anything. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be punished, but if you want your teen to continue trusting you, you should come into the conversation calm and unhostile, don’t make it an argument, make it a mutual understanding.


Is Your Teen Trustworthy? How Can You Tell?

Vanessa’s Note: I read this amazing article by researcher, Nancy Darling at Psychology Today and got her permission to repost it here for our readers. Enjoy:

Karen Bogenschneider of the University of Wisconsin Madison, wrote a piece called “Other Kids Drink, But Not My Kid.”  She found that although all the high school students in the study drank, only one third of parents were aware of it.  More surprising, many parents knew – or suspected – that teens in general drank and that many of their own child’s friends drank.   But not THEIR kid.

Knowledge mattered.  Mothers who knew their kids drank talked to them more frequently about the risks of drinking – particularly about drunk driving.

The double bind of parental trust

Parents are in a bit of a bind when it comes to trust.  It is important to kids that their parents trust them.  In fact, it’s one of the markers of a good parent-child relationship.  In addition, feeling trusted seems to inspire kids to behave in ways that will maintain parental trust. Good kidsnare trusted.  The more they’re trusted, the more they try to live up to that trust, and the more trustworthy they become.

On the other hand, parents who don’t know that their kids are getting in trouble (because they trust them) miss the opportunity to set rules and act proactively to keep kids out of trouble.  They lose the opportunity to caution their kids about drunk driving if they don’t think they’re drinking.  Or forbid them to go to the party where the keg is.  Or punish them when they do.

But there’s NOTHING worse for a teen than feeling distrusted when you haven’t done anything wrong.

What’s a parent to do?

How good are parents at knowing when their teens are lying

Most kids lie to their parents sometimes.  For example, in a study we did of 121 high school students, 120 of them listed at least one area they lied to parents about.  And that last teen told us they agreed with their parents about everything.  (I’m not sure I believe them.)  We’ve replicated these findings with thousands more kids in four countries or three continents.

Although most kids lie, some kids lie much more than others.  In that first study, areas of lying ranged from 2 of 36 areas to 35 of 36.  In general – and not surprisingly – the more kids lie, the more trouble they get in, the worse they get along with their parents, and the less they feel trusted.

We interviewed and surveyed mothers and teens about areas of agreement, obedience, and lying. In general, mothers were bad at even knowing whether or not their teens agreed with them.

  • For 38% of issues, both mothers and teens agreed that they disagreed.  .
  • In 22.8% of cases, both mothers and adolescents agreed that they agreed.
  • In almost 40% of cases, mothers and adolescents disagreed about their agreement.

These errors occurred in both directions.  Mothers sometimes assumed agreement when it did not exist, but also saw disagreement where it did not exist.  For example, in 35.9% of instances where mothers thought their adolescents’ agreed with them, adolescents reported that they did not.  On the other hand, in 32.3% of instances where mothers reported that their adolescents disagreed with them, adolescents reported agreeing.

Mothers can’t tell when their kids lie. 

In general, we found mothers were very bad at reporting what areas their kids lied about.  Why?  Because mothers were TOO SUSPICIOUS.  In 62% of instances where adolescents reported disagreeing with rules but telling the truth, mothers falsely believed that their adolescents were lying or hiding information.  Mothers were better at spotting lies.

  • Mothers correctly reported that adolescents had used deception 71% of the time.
  • In 29% of instances, mothers believed adolescents were telling the truth, but their adolescents reported lying.

Taken together, these results indicate that adolescents use deception fairly regularly (in 64% of instances where they disagree with mothers).  Mothers were rightly suspicious of their adolescents and believed that their adolescents use deception 68% of the time.  However, mothers were not notably accurate in their assessment of when adolescents were using deception and when they were not.Why?  Bedause they couldn’t accurately tell when their adolescent agreed and when they didn’t.

Although mothers accurately detected 71% of deception, they also believed that adolescents were using deception in 62% of instances where adolescents reported that they were not .  Looked at another way:

  • 57% of the time mothers believed that adolescents were telling the truth, teens really were
  • 33% of the time mothers believed adolescents were lying, teens said they were telling the truth

Overall, there was a large gap between mothers’ beliefs about whether their kids were behaving in a trustworthy way and adolescents’ self-reports of their trustworthy behavior.

Which mothers trust their kids the most?  Which kids feel trusted?

Mothers’ trust of their kids is predicted by two things: how much trouble the adolescent is getting into (based on adolescent reports) and how much the mother thinks she knows about how the teen spends their time.  Interestingly, neither how much information the teen says they share nor how much information the mother THINKS the teen shares predicts anything about trust.

Mothers’ knowledge, in turn, is predicted by both problem behavior and teens’ legitimacy beliefs.  Legitimacy beliefs are the extent to which the teen believes the parent has a right to set rules.  I always think of this as the ‘good kid’ measure, because it essentially taps into the extent to which kids believe that parents have a right and duty to protect, teach, and set rules for them and that they, as kids, should really listen.

So for moms, our model looks something like this:







The model predicting adolescents’ feelings that they are trusted is much simpler.  Kids who believe their parents have the right to set rules feel trusted.  It doesn’t matter what the kid does (although legitimacy beliefs predict adolescent obedience, sharing information, lying, and problem behavior).  If the teen thinks they are a ‘good kid’, they feel trusted.





One thing we’ve learned from all of this is that these differences between families where kids think parents have the right to be, well, PARENTS, where kids essentially behave themselves and tell their parents what is going on in their lives, and where parents are warm, supportive, and fairly strict arise early – at least by age 12.  Where do those differences come from?  That’s the next post.


Bogenschneider, K., Wu, M. Y., Raffaelli, M., & Tsay, J. C. (1998). “Other teens drink, but not my kid”: Does parental awareness of adolescent alcohol use protect adolescents from risky consequences? Journal ofMarriage and the Family, 60(2), 356-373.

Darling, N., & Dowdy, B. (2010). Trust, but verify: Knowledge, disclosure and trust in parent-adolescent relationships. In K. J. Rotenberg (Ed.),Trust and trustworthiness during childhood and adolescence (pp. 203-222). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Original Post here.


Sponsor This Week: SafeKidZone


SafeKidZone protects your child when you can’t be there! If they have an accident, are lost or scared, if they’re being bullied or find themselves in any type of danger, your child can summon help within seconds with the push of a Panic Button on their cell phone. Friends, family, neighbors and 911 will be mobilized to protect your child. The 24/7 Call Center sends the GPS location of your child with their photo and all their vital information to the nearest emergency responders – SafeKidZone is the only service of its kind with this feature. You can have peace of mind knowing that your child is protected at the push of a button! Also like SafeKidZone on Facebook and get a 15 day free trial!