Drunk Driving and Your Teen: A Guide for Parents

Your child’s teen years are often when they choose to do everything in their power to rebel. While this may come in the form of not doing their homework and talking back, it can also take a dangerous turn if your teen drinks and drives. Statistically speaking, many teenagers drink, regardless of laws and commonly discussed dangers. Knowing this, it’s important to talk to your children about the criminal—and sometimes deadly—consequences of their actions.


Information about drunk driving and teens

Unfortunately, underage drinking and drunk driving are still prevalent in our society, just as the following statistics show:

  • Teens account for 14 percent of all DUI charges.
  • According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, over 40 percent of tenth graders drink alcohol.
  • More male teens drink than female teens.
  • Statistically, Hispanic teens are more likely to drink than Black teens.
  • While the number of teens who drink and drive has decreased by more than 50 percent since 1991, it still accounts for roughly 4,300 deaths every year.
  • Teen drivers are 17 times more likely to die in a crash when they have a blood alcohol level of .08 percent.
  • Teens drive after drinking 2.4 million times a month.
  • 85 percent of teens who say they drink and drive also binge drink.

The Importance of Talking to Your Teens About Drunk Driving

While it’s a common saying that “talking to a teen is like talking to a wall,” talking to them about important topics such as drunk driving is worth the awkward moments. When talking to your teens, there are a few things you can do to better get through to them and emphasize the importance of abstaining from drinking.

  1. Avoid the “Lecture”

    According to many psychologists, lecturing your kids is a surefire way to get them not to listen. Instead, speak to them like you would if you were having a normal conversation. Show them you’re on their side rather than against them.

  2. Timing

    Many parents have found certain times of the day ideal for speaking with their teens. Parents choose to wait up for them to come home from a date or hanging out with friends. Many also suggest choosing a time when you’re not rushed and you can spontaneously spark up a conversation without suddenly having to end it.

  3. Focuses on Both Consequences and Punishments

    As humans, we are more naturally inclined to react to punishment than consequence. While it’s important to talk about the consequences of drinking and driving, such as accidents and deaths, it can also be beneficial to mention other repercussions as well, such as the charge affecting their chances for college or finding a job, but do so in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re attacking them.

  4. Talk to Them About Their Options

    Teens make mistakes, so if they do choose to drink, there are still things you can do to help them. Talk to them about what transportation options they have instead of drinking and driving, such as car services or even simply calling their parents for a ride home. This can make all the difference.

Drunk Driving vs. Buzzed Driving

It’s a common misconception that buzzed driving is safer than drunk driving. In reality, it can be just as bad. In fact, when someone drives while buzzed, they’re a hazard on the road because their bodily functions have slowed down. Whether your teen drinks a glass of wine or downs a few beers, they will be too impaired to drive safely. It’s important to talk to your teens about the effects of buzzed driving as well.

Criminal Implications

If your teen is caught drinking and driving, he or she will receive either a DWI or a DUI. A DWI, or driving while intoxicated charge, is given when your teen is caught in the act of drinking and driving. Typically, this happens when a police officer notices your child swerving or otherwise driving recklessly. A DUI—driving while under the influence—is given when a person is pulled over for a routine traffic stop and found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

While classified as a Class C Misdemeanor, these charges come with steep repercussions, including but not limited to:

  • Education and Career

    • If your teen receives a DWI/DUI, it can take a toll on their educational and career aspirations. Many employers look at criminal records and won’t hire based on past charges. On the other hand, many universities, scholarship foundations, and other educational institutes base their decisions and criteria on past criminal charges. While a DWI/DUI won’t halt your child’s future completely, it can make it hard for them to move forward with their goals.
  • License Suspension

    • Oftentimes, when someone receives a DWI/DUI, their license is suspended for a certain amount of time, preventing them from being able to drive legally. This can take a toll on your teen’s life, especially if they’re independent and are often driving themselves to school functions and their friends’ houses.
  • Fines

    • Like most offenses, your teen will be required to pay a hefty fine. The amount depends on the severity of the damages and injuries sustained.
  • Jail Time

    • It’s not uncommon for DWI/DUI charges to result in jail time. This can be anywhere from a few days to the maximum for minors of 180 days.
  • Community Service

    • After this charge, your child will be required to complete community service hours, usually anywhere between 20 and 40 hours. If your child has a previous offense on their record, they may have to do up to 60 hours.

Not only will your teen need to deal with these consequences, the charge will always be on their record, following them around wherever they go. This can have huge implications on their lives. An expunction of records can help by permanently removing the charge from their record.

Expunction of Records

Fortunately, your teen may have the option to have their records expunged. For many cases, when a minor receives a charge on their record, they qualify for an expunction of records as long as the offense was committed when they were 17 years of age or younger and as long as it was a misdemeanor.

However, there are certain criteria they must meet as well in order to be eligible. Most states require the person to be of at least a certain age in order to qualify for an expunction. In addition, if your child has more than one conviction, they won’t be eligible.

When filing for an expunction of records, there are certain steps your child will need to take. First, they will need to determine whether they are eligible. Once they have determined that they are, they will need to file a petition and complete any necessary paperwork. A court hearing will then be set to determine if the record should be expunged. If it’s approved, the record will be deleted from all of the involved agencies.

While this is a viable option for your teen to recover from a bad mistake, their best bet is to be well informed about the consequences of drinking and driving. Talking to your teen and being proactive can help further reduce the teen drinking and driving rate and make the roads a safer place.