Thursday, January 04, 2007

Drinking Away Judgement

I’ve noticed a change in attitude about underage drinking. Sure, there are parents who still shrug the problem off saying, “Oh, well, kids will be kids.” But more adults seem to acknowledge that teen drinking is unsafe. Their change in attitude affects the way they talk with their kids.

A friend recently told me that she and her husband tell their teenage kids repeatedly that underage drinking is unacceptable. And she tells them why: using alcohol at an early age puts you at greater risk for problems with alcohol as an adult; you can become dependent on alcohol as a way to relax and feel more comfortable around your peers; and you’ll do things under the influence you’d never do sober.

Yesterday, Anne, the mother of five children – the oldest is 22 – told me she’s known two teens who died in drinking and driving crashes. They would have survived, she said, if they’d worn their seatbelts. According to Anne, the kids weren’t falling-down drunk. But they’d had enough to make them sloppy about the rules. Both kids ordinarily wore seat belts. They were known for it.

This reminded me of what Dr. Brian Johnson and Dr. Paula Rauch told me when we were writing the booklet, Words Can Work: When Talking About Alcohol.

Dr. Johnson: “Driving is a complex task. You have to be aware of your front and side and rear view mirrors, where your car is in relation to others, the break, the accelerator, how fast you’re going. This is a lot for adults who’ve driven all their lives. It’s especially so for young people with no experience.”

Dr. Rauch: “Many teens would never drink and drive if they were sober, but they lose that judgment after a beer or two... alcohol can give them a false sense of well-being, make them less careful, and slow their reaction time.”

You can see how someone under the influence could forget to buckle up.
So when the conversation turns to drinking and driving, add this to the list: A habit such as buckling up can be easily forgotten. And, in a flash, a life can be lost.

Alcohol: True Stories Hosted by Matt Damon
Words Can Work: When Talking About Alcohol

Related Issues and Answers columns
Peer pressure
Underage drinking

Related columns for young people


kkov said...

Good reminder. Throw cell phones into the mix and you have a real recipe for disaster. I can't tell you how often I see kids flying down the road talking and laughing on their cell phones, holding onto the steering wheel with one hand oblivious to the world around them. Please add this to the list of reminders!

January 11, 2007 12:52 PM


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