When your teen passes their long-awaited drivers' test, you likely worry about everything that can go wrong. Like many parents, you might even lose sleep over their safety. Do they know how to change a flat tire? Will someone crash into them? Once they're out on the road, you probably feel like you can't protect them anymore.
However, you can be proactive against intoxicated driving. Parents can actually play a big role in protecting their teens from DUI charges and crash injuries. Even if you know your teen is responsible behind the wheel, you can help them learn about the laws that protect them from alcohol-related crashes.
Know the punishment for juvenile DUI
Juvenile DUIs are slightly different from adult DUIs. New Jersey law follows a "zero-tolerance" policy, which states that minors can lose their license with "a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01% or more, but less than ... 0.08%." Community service and safety education are also part of this penalty.
Your teen could still lose their driving privileges without ever taking a BAC test. New Jersey enforces a "Use/Lose" law, which means that if anyone under 21 either consumes or has alcohol, police must temporarily suspend their license.
Unfortunately, a mistake in adolescence can impact future opportunities. Aside from driving privileges, a DUI charge can significantly impact applications for college, scholarships, and employment. This is what makes underage drinking some parents' worst nightmare.
What parents can do
Parents don't have to make alcohol a taboo subject. On the contrary, open conversations about alcohol use can help your teen understand why driving sober is so important. Whether your household policy forbids alcohol or you all share wine at dinner time, you can explain the danger of intoxication.
Make sure your teen knows what's at stake. Not only might the legal punishment discourage drunk driving, but vehicle repair expenses, higher insurance and the risk of serious injury could as well.
However, the point is not necessarily to scare your teen when they haven't done anything wrong. You can also compliment their responsible behavior to promote good driving. A balance of discipline and encouragement can go far.