Car crashes are a leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter of fatal crashes involve an underage drinking driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Teenagers want to learn to drive, and for most US teens, getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage and a big part of gaining independence. How can parents allow their teenagers to take this step towards adulthood and at the same time, reduce the risk of their child being in an accident involving drinking and driving?
Some parents are using a strategy called “Contract for Life.” Developed by SADD, Students against Destructive Decisions, this contract is between parents or guardians and their teenager. It’s purpose is to save lives, and while nothing can eliminate all risks, having this type of contract with students and opening lines of communication can certainly help students to navigate tough situations and choose the safest option.
A Contract for Life can be personalized, or a copy of the SADD version can be requested from the organization. It can be as simple or as detailed as a family’s needs. Things to include are:
- An agreement never to drink or use other substances that impair driving abilities when driving.
- An agreement never to get into a car driven by someone whose driving may be impaired by alcohol or other substances.
- An agreement to work through difficult situations in a non-judgemental manner, focused on the safety of all involved.
- Plans for designating a sober driver BEFORE going out.
- What to do when caught up in a difficult situation. Options will vary depending on the situation, but can include:
- call home
- plan to stay over with a friend or family member
- take public transportation
- arrange for a cab or rideshare (funds provided by parents)
- walk home or to a designated meeting place
- and any arrangement that works for the family involved
No matter how much they may wish it, parents can never completely eliminate risk from their children’s lives. However, signing a Contract for Life with teenage drivers and even younger teens who may be riding with older kids, is a great step towards increasing their safety. A Contract for Life can help students to navigate difficult situations and choose the safest option for themselves and others.