On any beautiful spring day, students at U.S. high schools are often subjected to the horrific scenes of mangled cars, shattered glass, emergency response teams, and bloody, near lifeless bodies. It is the season for the mock crash demonstrations. Graduation, proms, and the end of school often bring a heightened for teen DUIs. Countless resources, dollars, and time go into putting on these mock crash demonstrations in an effort to help curb drunk driving among our teens. But, is it working to curb drunk driving among our teens?
As terrifying as these scenes may appear to teenagers, some argue that they may not be all that effective. But according to a recent article in the Ft Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, some officials say the events, by themselves, have little impact, and that year-round efforts are essential Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) actually agrees, citing research that says these incredibly graphic images have a short-term effect. Within days, the scenes have left a teenager’s mind and they may resort back to destructive behavior.
Car crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths in the U.S. It is estimated that 1 out of 3 accidents involve alcohol. And the summer months are statistically shown to increase the risk of teenage drivers being involved in a deadly car crash. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the highest number of fatalities happens during the weekends of Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. For law enforcement, it’s called the 100 Deadly Days of Summer.
If mock car crashes are only a short-term deterrent, what should be done to help curb drunk driving among teenagers? If you ask the school administrators, counselors, or law enforcement responsible for setting up these crashes, they would most likely tell you that if the mock situation stops one crash or saves one teen, then the efforts are worth it. We fully agree.
Beyond the simulations, what else can we do to help deter teens from drinking and driving? SADD recommends going about it from a variety of angles, starting with evidence-based prevention programs. It starts with identifying the risk of an individual including peers, family, school, and community. Does the teen have impulse control, depression, low self-esteem or rebellious behavior? Does he or she have friends that are experimenting with drugs and alcohol, or do they come from a family of alcoholism or drug addiction? The organization encourages its chapter members to get involved by educating students and peers, driving school policy changes, collaborating with the community, and using billboards to warn students.
What are your thoughts? Have you seen a program in your area you thought was effective? How do you talk with your kids and teens about drinking and driving?