It’s almost that time of year again: winter break. Your teen is home for a week or two from school, with nothing better to do than visit friends and stay out later at night. Though they say they’re just going to the movies, how do you know that’s the case? You might trust your teen completely, but know that there’s a high risk of your teen drinking this holiday season. In fact, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reports that one in three 8th grade children have consumed alcohol, and about 5,000 deaths each year are attributed to teen alcohol use.

Mustang
(photo by Moyan_Brenn via Flickr)

The holiday season, the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, features the most traffic deaths, with many of those deaths impacting teens between 15 and 20-years old.

Maybe you’ve already caught your teen driving under the influence. If you’re trying to figure out a way to trust them with the keys to your car ever again, you should know that there’s a solution. A simple ignition interlock system could be the answer, saving your car from requiring costly repairs, keeping your son or daughter from getting arrested for a DUI, or preventing a DUI-related death.

What Is It?

A Guardian Ignition Interlock is a special type of Breathalyzer that is installed in your car. Each time someone wants to drive the car, they must use the Breathalyzer. If they do not blow a perfect 0.0, the car will not start. It’s as simple as that! Worried your teen will leave the car idling outside the party to avoid the blood alcohol test? Don’t worry – at different intervals throughout the drive, including while idling, the ignition interlock will ask you to perform the test again. It’s called a rolling retest, and it’s genius. You can’t fool this system!

Not Just For Teens

Of course, this system is not just made for teens, although it is a great way to ensure they aren’t driving under the influence. The device is also designed for those who’ve received a prior DUI. Fifteen states actually require first offenders install these devices into their vehicles: Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; Connecticut; Hawaii; Illinois; Kansas; Louisiana; Nebraska; New Mexico; New York; Oregon; Utah; Virginia; and Washington. Other states, like Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, and South Carolina, make it mandatory for repeat offenders to install an ignition interlock, while other states only require it in extreme cases, typically anyone being caught with a .15 BAC or more.

Every state is forced to require an ignition interlock for repeat offenders under the Transportation Restoration Act. If a state does not put legislation addressing the use of ignition interlocks in place, the Federal Government will then withhold 3% of a state’s highway funds. Not something any state wants happening!

How To Keep Your Teen Safe

Short of being there in the car with them throughout their travels, there are things you can do to keep your teen safe this holiday from the effects of drinking and driving. You could sit them down and explain to them that drinking at their age is illegal, that it will affect their long and short term memory, mess up their judgment, and lead to alcoholism in adulthood, but they’ve probably already heard it all before.

You can start by setting firm ground rules, and sticking to them. Now more than ever, you need to be the parent and not a friend. Talk to them about their opinions of alcohol. MADD compiled a list of the most common alcohol myths, so you can go through them with your teen to see if they have an altered perception of the substance. They include:

BreathalyzerAlcohol makes you feel and look good. Any adult knows the truth, and sees a visual of someone they might know who suffers from alcoholism. They usually don’t look good, and as for how they feel, they’re probably grumpier when they aren’t drinking. What fun is that?

Alcohol isn’t as bad as doing drugs. Ridiculously false – alcohol kills over six times the people than every single illegal drug put together.

Alcohol has no permanent, lasting effects. Alcohol can wreak havoc on the liver, heart, and many other organs within the body if consumed in mass quantity.

Instead of telling your teen all of the negatives, focus on the positives. Staying away from alcohol will keep them healthy, and make them feel good when they are able to function the next day and remember all of the details from the party. Build your teen’s self-confidence so that they feel fine going against the crowd, consuming water instead of beer, and even spend time trying to come up with witty comebacks for people that try to pressure them into taking a sip.

You should give them the skills and knowledge to make their own decision and hope they’re safe, and install an ignition interlock to guarantee they’re safe.