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Teen driving: When inexperience and intoxication mix

Say that your teenage son is a good driver, but he is only 17 and you feel somewhat uneasy whenever he is behind the wheel.

There are distractions. There is drinking, although your son insists he does not imbibe. There is also the simple matter of inexperience. How can you not worry?

Gaining experience

When it comes to responsible driving behaviors, there is no substitute for experience. There is definitely a learning curve. In 2018, Department of Transportation data showed that young people between the ages of 15 and 20 who had not taken driver education courses were responsible for 91% of teen vehicle crashes. In fact, new motorists are eight times more likely than experienced drivers either to have a close call or to be in a collision, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The problem with passengers

Passengers pose a real concern. With a passenger in the vehicle, the risk of a teen driver having an accident doubles. When there are two or more passengers, the odds of having a crash is five times more likely.

Adding alcohol to the mix

About 30 people die every day in drunk driving vehicle accidents across the country according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and roughly 800 people injured. The good news is that over the last decade, the fatalities for drunk drivers under the age of 21 declined by 29%. Still, in 2017, 21.4 million people aged 16 or older drove after drinking alcohol, and one person died in a drunk driving crash every 50 minutes that year. 

Looking at consequences

As the parent of a young driver, you want your son to remain safe whenever he is behind the wheel. While you must let him gain his own experience on the road and trust him to use common sense and avoid distractions, you can remind your son of the dangers of drinking and driving. Should an arrest for OUI ever occur, explore the legal options available without delay to ensure that his rights—and driving privileges—are protected.

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