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Tips to stop your teenager from drinking and driving

For a teenager, peer pressure is a fact of life, one that can be extremely difficult to fight back against. Teenagers want to fit in, and fitting in might involve drug or alcohol use. As a parent, you probably spend a significant amount of time worrying about the decisions your child is making, especially now that he or she has a driver's license and is no longer 100 percent dependent on you. Not only do you want to keep your child safe, but you also want to keep him out of legal trouble that could result from a drunk driving charge.

If you have not sat down and had the safety talk yet, it is probably time to do so. Here are a few tips to help you talk to your teen about drinking and driving.

Set very clear rules

Studies have found that teenagers with engaged parents who set very clear rules and expectations are less likely to engage in dangerous or risky behaviors. You should not feel guilty about laying down the law when it comes to underage drinking and driving. Make it a point to tell your child that he or she is to never drink and drive OR get into a vehicle with a driver who is under the influence.

Put it in writing

Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) has a free online contract that you can download and print out. Have your teenager read and sign the contract as soon as he gets his license or when he begins getting rides from other teens. Tell your child that if he or she violates the terms of the contract, you will take the license away. However, also make a pact that if he or she calls for a safe ride home, you'll honor that request.

Have a code

Your teenager might be embarrassed to call you for a safe ride in front of his friends. You can work around this by creating a secret code. For example, you can create a number code. Your teen could text you the numbers "1-2-3-4" which would mean you need to provide a ride. In addition, have a backup plan in place. You should have another adult you trust, such as a relative, whom your teenager can call or text if you are not available for some reason.

While the above tips can reduce the chances of your teenager drinking and driving, he or she may make a mistake. If this happens and you get a call from the police department saying they have your child in custody for drunk driving, keep in mind that you have numerous options. With a proper legal defense, it might be possible to successfully fight back against a drunk driving charge and avoid a criminal conviction.

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