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27/07-11   -   Press releases

AboutKidsHealth explores the dangers of teenage drinking and driving

For a teenager, getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage: the beginning of a journey toward social independence. For some parents, however, it’s a reality marred by myriad “what ifs" and unsettling statistics regarding teenage drinking and driving, as AboutKidsHealth, leading online provider of children’s health information, reports.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), road crashes still remain the leading cause of death among teenagers. Forty-five per cent of these crashes are a direct result of impaired driving, such as teenage drinking and driving.

“Teenagers, in general, think they’re invincible," says Carolyn Swinson. “They probably think they’re capable of doing a lot more than they actually can." Swinson, who once held the position of chair of MADD Canada’s National Board, says teens are more likely to take risks when behind the wheel, compared to older, more experienced drivers.

Neurobiology advances suggest that during early-to-mid adolescence, a chemical substance called dopamine – a neurotransmitter responsible for the pleasure and reward circuit of the brain – is at its most heightened level of activity, compared to any other stage of life. Since most things feel especially pleasurable during adolescence, they tend to actively seek out new and often dangerous experiences – and this can lead to teenagers drinking and driving.

A renowned expert on psychological development during adolescence and author of author of You and Your Adolescent: The Essential Guide for Ages 10-25, Dr. Laurence Steinberg points out that teenagers are still very weak when it comes to impulse control. Their interest in sensation seeking, on the other hand, is stronger than ever, and this dichotomy often sets them up for making some serious mistakes.

“Don’t preach to your kids," says Swinson. “You have to really make them aware of the dangers of impaired driving. You have to talk to them and you have to understand them. Let them know that you have expectations."

Furthermore, providing underage drinkers with alcohol is against the law and the consequences of doing so are often lethal, points out Dr. Knight, director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at Children’s Hospital Boston.

“Never, ever provide alcohol for teens to drink in your home thinking you can take away the keys and keep them safe, it can’t be done," he says. “Up to 30% of parents do this and it’s deadly."

Encourage them to get in the habit of choosing a designated driver.
Network with other parents in the community, and take turns being the designated driver Friday and Saturday nights.
Make seatbelt wearing mandatory.
Be a role model and set a good example when it comes to drinking.
Provide them with the number of a reliable taxi service and the necessary cab fare.
No matter what time of day, agree to pick them up when they call for a ride home - no questions asked.

For more information about how alcohol affects teens, please see other articles on the AboutKidsHealth site, such as these teenage drinking facts or details about underage drinking. For the full article that this story was based on, please visit:

Joel Tiller

AboutKidsHealth is the leading Canadian online source for trusted child health information, and has a scope and scale that is unique in the world. Developed by SickKids Learning Institute in collaboration with over 300 paediatric health specialists, the site provides parents, children, and community health care providers with evidence-based information about everyday parenting information, health and complex medical conditions, from what we can learn about the dangers of energy drink, to non-communicable disease in the developing world to teenage drinking and driving. AboutKidsHealth adheres to rigorous quality standards for the creation and review of health information.

Visit to find out more.

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