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3 Things to Tell Your Teen About Drunk Driving

The school year is winding to a close, and it’s officially time to celebrate the Class of 2014 with a slew of sappy graduation parties. Since not every bash involves grandma in the garden with a classy string quartet, take a moment in between stocking up on copies of Oh, the Places You’ll Go to have one last casual chat about underage drinking with your teenager. It might seem futile at this point, but studies show “kids who their parents tell that underage drinking is completely unacceptable are more than 80 percent less likely to drink than teens who receive other messages.”

Groups such as MADD and SADD offer advice for talking to your children about drunk driving, but make sure you slip these three facts into the discussion regardless of whether you choose the good cop or the bad cop routine:

  1. Colorado’s “Zero Tolerance” Policy: Colorado has a “Zero Tolerance” policy for drivers under the age of 21, which penalizes minors for operating a vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content level of just 0.02 (the national legal limit of 0.08 BAC only applies to those over 21 years old). There is also a “Minor in Possession” law that makes it an offense for those under the age of 21 to own, or even to hold, any amount of alcohol within their immediate presence. Incidentally, the consequences for Underage Drinking and Driving offenses include jail time, fines, and community service.
  1. Illegality of Driving Stoned: Driving stoned is illegal too. With recreational marijuana now legal in Colorado, this needs to be a part of the conversation as well—especially as more teens report driving stoned than drunk. Colorado recently introduced a bill that ought to make it harder for minors to access pot in the first place, but that’s no reason to be naïve. Driving high will earn you a DUI—and that could certainly jeopardize those shiny college acceptances.
  2. Always Available for a Safe Ride Home: You will always be there for a ride home—without judgment. While it may be important to lecture on the perils of underage drinking, this is the only point you need to hear. It may sound trite, but “they have their whole futures in front of them” is never truer than at one’s high school graduation. It’s crucial your children know they can rely on you so their safety—their future—won’t be at risk if they do decide to indulge in one last illicit hurrah with their friends.

Trust us, when one of the mothers pulls out the margarita machine and begins pouring out drinks for all her daughter’s friends in a show of “coolness” (as happened during one of our own infamous graduation parties), you’ll be glad you had this little talk.


As we bid farewell to the graduating Class of 2014 amidst a backdrop of celebratory parties, it is paramount for parents to engage in one final conversation about the perils of underage drinking with their teenagers. While the festivities may tempt a lax attitude, studies underscore the significance of parents explicitly conveying the unacceptability of underage drinking, as it substantially reduces the likelihood of teens engaging in such behavior. Key organizations like MADD and SADD guide addressing drunk driving, but parents should also impart critical facts, such as Colorado’s strict “Zero Tolerance” policy and the legal repercussions of driving under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana. Reinforcing the promise of a non-judgmental, reliable ride home emerges as the paramount message, ensuring the safety and future of these graduates during moments of potential indiscretion.

As the tassel turns and the cap is tossed, the need for open communication and parental support becomes even more pronounced. The looming specter of legal consequences and the assurance of a safe alternative serve as a powerful deterrent against reckless behavior. In navigating the delicate balance between guidance and freedom, parents play a pivotal role in shaping the choices of their graduating teens. So, amidst the revelry and “cool” graduation parties, the investment in one last heartfelt discussion may prove to be the most valuable gift parents can offer to safeguard their children’s futures.

Do you have further questions or concerns? Call us or contact the attorneys at Thomas & Ahnell, LLC, and we will be happy to help.

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