Jessica Rasdall and Laura Gorman were best friends. They were both 18, college first-year students, coworkers and were inseparable since kindergarten. They enjoyed going out, dancing, and to just have fun overall. The good times might have lasted a lifetime, but, for the tragedy that unfolded in a Florida highway early one February morning in 2006.
It started with a trip to the club, a few drinks, and a walk to the car, with Rasdall taking the wheel. Less than an hour later, Gorman was dead, and her best friend charged with killing her.
In 2003, more than 3,600 drivers under age 21 died in motor vehicle crashes, and 25 percent of those young drivers had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher. That’s legally drunk in every state. The highway deaths are so frequent they can go unnoticed until one hits close to home.
“My name is Jessica Rasdall, and on Feb.25, 2006, I killed my best friend,” Rasdall now 22, tells a crowd of high school students.
“I wished I could take her place that night,” she said to Elizabeth Vargas of “20/20”
“Laura Ann Gorman died in the passenger seat of my car…” “…I would give anything just to bring her back,” were just a few of the heartbreaking comments Jessica made, on top of having to live with the pain and guilt, of being responsible for her friend’s death. (Goldberg)
Can you imagine, the hard reality of waking up each morning, knowing your best friend, or a close member of your family is dead, and you are responsible?
Can you imagine how hard it must be for Jessica to wake up every day, knowing she’s responsible for her best friend’s death?
Can you imagine the pain Laura’s family must endure knowing that their baby girl is gone forever, all because of one wrong decision?
Everyone makes mistakes, it’s quite reasonable, but when yours or someone else’s life may be at risk, this is where you draw the line. We all need to put an end to this dilemma, so other families including yours will not have to go through what Laura’s family or even Jessica must endure.
What are the effective measures that should be taken to eliminate the high levels of drunk driving caused by teenagers, who will be implementing these steps and how can this problem be solved?
These solutions will be dependent on the help of parents, teenagers, law enforcement and legislative initiatives such as the MLDA (Minimum Legal Drinking Age) of 21, administrative license revocation, and lower BAC (Blood alcohol content).
According to reviewed research findings, suggestions are that parents’ effectiveness at preventing alcohol use and alcohol-impaired driving among their teenagers depends upon the stage of involvement. The definition of these stages is awareness, acceptance, action, and consequences. With the description of the specific components made, and evidence presented indicating that parents tend to be unaware of the real extent, and nature of teen drinking, and thus less prone to acceptance and action. (Beck 35) First of all, parents should educate their teenagers about the effects of alcohol consumption, prevention, and consequences. A study of over 1000 teens found that teens with, ‘prominent’ parents who establish clear behavior expectations, monitoring their whereabouts, and aren’t afraid to say no, are four times less likely to engage in risky behaviors like drinking and driving.
One of the easiest starters recommended is that parents and teens should work together. Upon doing so, they should create a pact, which if the teen acts responsibly by calling for a ride, they get to keep their license. Teens often worry about peer pressure and their friends making fun of them if they call their parents to drive them home. In this case, teens, parents and a trusted designated driver can invent a text code like, “ INAR” (I need a ride) or “CGM” (come get me). When the teen is ready to go home him/her can send the code to both the parent and designated driver, If one person is unavailable to go then the other should be able to. This way the teen will still get to be cool around friends and gets to go home safe.
Parent alliances would also be an effective way for parents to agree on supervising parties and ensuring that alcohol is not available for teen consumption. For special occasions, such as proms or birthday parties, a ‘safe rides’ program implemented by parents and other members of the community is capable. Parents should consider hiring a designated driver, or limo if their teen is with a group. It is important that parents don’t allow their teens to spend the night out at friends houses or hotels without responsible adult supervision. This act may seem ludicrous, but it can also be very effective. Teens should have an opportunity to meet a victim of teen drunk driving or someone who’ve lost a loved one due to drunk driving. This realistic evidence may give them a more hardcore perspective of the adverse effects of this offense. As humans, we tend to be desensitized by mere words and explanation until we face reality.
Secondly, Parents should not allow their adolescents to drink at home. Though this may seem ok to parents, it is not. Even if they may have adult supervision and are not driving, this should not be allowed. Studies have proven that adolescent girls who were not permitted to drink alcohol in high school engaged in less college binge drinking than those who were authorized to drink. Allowing teenagers to drink at home with friends was associated with the riskiest drinking. The relationship between high school parental drinking permissiveness and college binge drinking mediated via perceptions of mother’s alcohol approval (Livingston., et al. 1105).
To change this problem, parents need to lead by example, by not encouraging or practicing intoxication in front of their teens and store their alcohol out of their reach. The parents also need to be aware and involved in what their teenagers are doing. Start out by educating and not encouraging underage drinking at home. Teens will not admit to their parents that they are going out to drink with friends, and stopping them is rather challenging. If parents don’t want to go by the label, ‘worst parents ever,’ they will have to initiate a relationship based on trust with their teen. Hiring a responsible designated driver to drop off, and pick up at specific times, will hinder them from driving if they decide to drink. Teens can be rather stubborn at times, even when parents let their guards down, and agree to meet them halfway, by allowing them to have fun with their friends. Often, they disobey, get drunk, and decide to drive home with intoxicated friends instead. In this case, serious consequences should be implemented by the parent. Parents need to act whether by hindering their teens from going out, not allowing them to drive until they are fully responsible, or installing an alcohol ignition interlock in their car. An interlock is a device that connects to the ignition circuit of a vehicle and prevents the engine from starting until a breath sample has been provided, analyzed for ethanol content, and determined to be lower than prescribed limits.
Five of six studies found interlocks to be effective in reducing DWI recidivism after being installed in the car. In the five studies demonstrating a significant effect, participants in the interlock programs were 15%-69% less likely than controls to be rearrested for DWI. Thus, alcohol ignition interlock programs appear to be effective in reducing DWI recidivism during the period when the interlock is installed in the car (Coben. 81). These are not easy decisions made by parents, so teenagers need to act responsibly and make wise choices so that parents won’t have to resort to these solutions. Besides, all this is for their benefit and is done solely out of love. A parents duty is to protect and love their children. Implementing these consequences may be one of the many ways, to see their teens live to enjoy a full life of happiness and opportunities. Watching parents and loved ones on the news crying daily due to the loss of their child is heartbreaking. No one should put their families through all that hurt or even risk their own lives, to begin with, so teens will need to develop trust and work with their parents to prevent this from happening.
Teenagers are the primary cause of, ‘Teenage Drinking and Driving’ accidents. They are also the lead victims of this self-inflicted problem. Teen drinking and driving fatalities would never occur if they all decided never to drink and drive. However, since this is wishful thinking, and some parents efforts become ineffective, other measures and authoritative figures may have to intervene to help them avoid this illegal and self-destructive offense.
License action is a very effective solution to teenage drinking and driving. License action includes both suspension and revocation of the driver’s license. Suspensions and revocation can be “hard,” prohibiting all driving or “soft,” allowing driving for limited purposes such as commuting to work. They range in duration from brief periods (e.g., 30 days) to long periods (e.g., 1 to 5 years) to permanent action. Suspended licenses are automatically reinstated at the termination of the suspension, whereas revoked license must be replaced through renewed applications after the revocation period has expired. Evidence of individual reform as a consequence of license actions comes primarily from studies conducted in the United States. In most cases, these evaluations involved judicially imposed license sanctions. The most recent and complete review of such studies completed by Peck, Sadler, and Perrine (1985) concluded that there is no question that license suspensions have a significant effect in reducing the accident and intoxicated driving frequency of convicted DUI offenders… The overall consistency of the results from different investigators, using quasi- experimental designs precludes any other conclusion (Ross, et. al ). This efficient method will require Law enforcement and legislative initiative such as the license revocation, and parents, to ensure that teens won’t be driving any motor vehicles on a suspended license. Even though many teens still break the law and drive with a suspended license, studies show that they tend to drive cautiously and not as often out of fear of getting arrested. However, In an attempt to eliminate this problem also a special sticker or tag should be placed on motor vehicles after license action, which gives law enforcement reason to pull over the driver and ask for proof of drivers license. As being stressed throughout this piece, these measures will not be necessary if teens abide by the rules and laws of the road. Directly, by working with their parents, which is obviously a win-win solution, and save everyone the trouble of playing the bad guy role or having to identify their bodies after a fatal self-inflicting, drunk driving incident.
Another way to solve teenage drinking and driving is through Sobriety checkpoints. According to ghsa.org, sobriety checkpoints also called (DUI checkpoints) is defined as locations where law enforcement officers are stationed to check drivers for signs of intoxication and impairment. According to an online journal, The goal of sobriety checkpoints is to deter drinking and driving by systematically stopping drivers for assessment of alcohol impairment, thus increasing the perceived risk of arrest for alcohol-impaired driving. This review examines the effectiveness of random breath testing (RBT) checkpoints, at which all drivers stopped are receive breath tests for blood alcohol levels and selective breath testing (SBT) checkpoints. Police must have a reason, to suspect the driver has been drinking before demanding a breath test. A systematic review of the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints in reducing alcohol-involved crashes and associated injuries and fatalities was conducted using the methodology developed for the Guide to Community Preventive Services (Community Guide). Substantial reductions in crashes were observed for both checkpoint types across various outcome measures and time periods. Results suggest that both RBT and SBT checkpoints can play a significant role in preventing alcohol-related crashes and associated injuries. (Elder, et al. 266). Teenagers are likely to go to jail if tested for high blood alcohol content after taking the sobriety test and should get their license suspended. They should also be charged for alcohol consumption especially because they are not at a legal age to drink. Each time a teen makes a wrong decision and are having to face extreme consequences such as jail time, license suspension or death, the parents and loved ones are left with the burden to pay fines, bail them out of jail or mourn their deaths for the rest of their lives. This series of unfortunate repercussions does not have to happen, loved ones and
parents won’t have to endure stress, depression, and go through mourning for the rest of their lives if teens quit drinking and driving or work alongside their loving, caring, parents.
A Treatment and Rehabilitation solution should be executed mainly for teens who’ve been committing this offense on a regular basis. Rehabilitation is in comparison to standard sanctions such as jail or fines. Remedial treatment should also be paired with the license action as this was proved by research to be more efficient. Many teens may also respond better to an intervention with a specific individualized treatment plan alongside counseling. These solutions are not subjected to belittle or embarrass teens but solely to help save their lives, close friends, and their own family. Most times adolescents who are involved in fatal accidents are usually with their buddies. Peer pressure may be a huge challenge and the main reason for teens to make wrong decisions. However, the next time the option presents itself, ask yourself if it’s worth being cool for the moment or risking your life, your friend’s life or not being able to see your family or loved ones forever. Always remember Jessica and Laura. You could be one or the other. There are thousands of late teens, that will never graduate from college, or never get to have a career. Seeing their loved ones again is a dream they don’t get to have, and a family of their own is completely off the table. Choose wisely! There are also thousands of teens like Jessica who have to live with pain and guilt for the rest of their lives knowing if only they had texted a (CGM) ‘come get me,’ to a designated driver or their parent they would’ve never have to live with that sad, miserable reality.
In conclusion, teenage drinking and driving have been a huge problem and is the lead cause of deaths among our teens. This problem can be easily solved if parents, teens, law enforcement and legislative initiatives work together. The most prominent persons overall that will help to alleviate this dilemma drastically are the teenagers and their parents, since they are usually the primary victims. Majority of the lessons learnt throughout life are taught in the home. Parents have to do their part, they can only hope their teens will do theirs as well, or allow the law enforcement to intervene. Active measures such as sobriety tests, increased use of interlocks, jail sentences, counseling, intervention, actions against vehicle tags, community interventions, license actions and the most efficient being, to hinder drinking and driving, are vital and necessary solutions to this problem. There are so many other solutions to be considered as well, but so far these have all been tested and reported to be very effective whether used individually or paired. Teens need to understand that nothing good comes out of drinking and driving. The only results are arrest, a very serious accident, loosing a friend or loved one, taking the life of someone else’s loved one or even your own death. Why would anyone want to take that risk? Do you ever think of how precious life is? Before you take that next step to your car after drinking if you still decide to, think of your best friend, your parents or even that lovely dog at home that licks your face from time to time.
Every teen need to know that they are the future and are loved, but they won’t accomplish anything if they wind up in jail, or dead from a fatal accident. Teens should also be taught and advised about giving in to peer pressure since it’s a leading cause of these wrong decisions. Just know that anyone that genuinely loves and care for their friends, would never put their lives at risk. Life is too short to let irresponsible friends and decisions get you in a wreck. Any teen that gets pressured into doing illegal and life threatening activities may need to consider finding new responsible friends that will not jeopardize their lives or yours.
All the solutions mentioned throughout this piece have been tested and proven effective to alleviate teenage drinking and driving. With more drastic measures executed to enforce these laws, and parents educating their teens from home, the results will be even greater. Our teens will be able to grow old with their responsible friends, enjoy life and its luxuries to its fullest, and having a family, and career of their own. Ask yourself these questions each time you are tempted to drink and drive. ‘Is it worth the consequences?’ How badly will my family and friends be affected if I die or kill someone else? If any of your answers reflect you caring about the consequences, yourself, friends family and the life of others, then, ‘Do not drink and DrIvE!’
Beck, Kenneth. H., & Lockhart, S. J. (1992). “A model of parental involvement in adolescent drinking and driving”. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 21(1), 35-51. doi:10.1007/bf01536982
Coben, J. H., & Larkin, G. L. (1999). “Effectiveness of ignition interlock devices in reducing drunk driving recidivism”. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 16(1), 81-87. doi:10.1016/s0749-3797(98)00117-2
Elder, R. W., Shults, R. A., Sleet, D. A., Nichols, J. L., Zaza, S., & Thompson, R. S. (2002). “Effectiveness of Sobriety Checkpoints for Reducing Alcohol-Involved Crashes.” Traffic Injury Prevention, 3(4), 266-274. doi:10.1080/15389580214623
Goldberg, Alan B. “TEEN DRIVING DRUNK KILLED BESTFRIEND.” 2 June 2009.
Livingston, J. A., Testa, M., Hoffman, J. H., & Windle, M. (2010). “Can parents prevent heavy episodic drinking by allowing teens to drink at home?” Addictive Behaviors, 35(12), 1105-1112. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2010.08.005
Nicolos, J., Ross, H., & Lawrence Ross, H. (1991). “The effectiveness of legal sanctions in dealing with drinking drivers”. Journal of Safety Research, 22(2), 117. doi:10.1016/0022-4375(91)90020-v