More teens try alcohol for the first time in June, July and December than during the rest of the year. That makes December a great time to talk to your teen not just about the dangers of drinking, but also the dangers of riding in a car when the driver has been drinking. This month may be the first time your teen is placed in the position of being offered a ride by a friend who has been drinking.

On an average day in the U.S., 7,800 adolescents will try alcohol for the first time. In December, more than 11,000 teens per day will try alcohol for the first time (samhsa.gov). When alcohol and driving are combined, teens are at an increased risk. According to the National Institutes of Health (nih.gov), alcohol is involved in 37 percent of traffic deaths among persons ages 16 to 20.

Most Rutland County students do not drink and drive. Middle and high school students in Rutland County reported the following through the Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2017):

— 5 percent of high school students in Rutland County drove while intoxicated in the past 30 days.

— 17 percent rode in the car with someone who had been drinking in the past 30 days.

— One in four middle school students had ridden with a driver who had been drinking.

December can be a dangerous time for young drivers to be on the road. Icy conditions and darker evenings can make the road more difficult to navigate. Cars full of teens traveling to parties can be distracting for the driver. If the driver is intoxicated, they are even more likely to crash. Parents, talk to your teen about the dangers of riding in a car with someone who has been drinking. Here are some tips:

Talk to your teen before there is a problem.

Make sure your teen knows what is expected.

Work with your teen to have a back-up plan if their ride has been drinking.

Create a code word with your teen so if they need help getting out of a situation they can discreetly text you for help.

For more information on how to talk to your kids, visit www.parentupvt.org.

Not sure where to start? Get free, confidential help 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or visiting vermont211.org. Information and referral specialists are also available by texting your zip code to 898211, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Partners for Prevention is a community network dedicated to sustainable substance misuse prevention efforts for Rutland County youth and young adults. Stay connected by liking Partners for Prevention on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/partnersforprevention

This week’s Health Talk was written by Rachel Newton, former Regional Prevention Partnerships Coordinator with Rutland Regional Medical Center.

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