TYLER (KYTX) – Alcohol use kills 4700 teens across the United States each year. To cut down on that number, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) urges parents to spark a conversation with their kids.
MADD has coined April 21 as PowerTalk 21 Day – the national day for parents to talk with their middle and high school teens about alcohol. Officials with MADD say the conversation is especially timely with prom, graduation and summer vacation just around the corner.
In 2015, 101 people ages 12 to 20 died in crashes involving alcohol on Texas roads. 70 of those deaths involved drivers under age 21 who had been drinking, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
Studies show parents have immense power in influencing their child's decision making. A vast majority of teens surveyed by MADD say they listen to their parents the most when it comes to underage drinking.
"Even if their child is not engaged in underage drinking they're probably exposed to it in some way - either with hanging out with other teens or in party situations," said Leslie Watson, affiliate executive director for MADD East Texas. "So generally, I think most teens are going to come into contact with alcohol at some point in their high school years."
Watson said parents should start talking with their kids about alcohol in middle school and make it an on-going conversation. She also encourages parents to plan out their talk and create consequences if their child decides to drink.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving also suggests developing an escape plan so if a teen drinks, they feel comfortable calling their parent for a safe ride home.
MADD has developed a pocket guide to help parents with this conversation. For more information on that and how you can attend a virtual workshop about underage drinking, click here.