For teenagers, summer is synonymous with freedom. Whether it’s newfound financial independence with a seasonal job, transportation freedom with a license or just the opportunity to spend time with friends any time of day, summer is a big deal. This increase in social activity can also bring temptation to engage in illegal behavior such as underage drinking.
With freedom comes responsibility to make good choices. As a parent, it can be difficult to let go and allow your teenager to make their own decisions – and yes, mistakes. As your teen starts their summer break, here are four things to discuss with them about underage drinking.
1. It’s illegal
Possessing, consuming and transporting alcohol is illegal for Tennessee minors. The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for anyone under 21 is .02 percent, which could be as little as one drink. If convicted, your teen could lose their license for one to two years, or the court could decide on a restricted license as a softer punishment.
Driving while impaired is illegal when anyone does it, but it can be especially damaging for teens. Underage drinking can come with a license revocation of one year, with no options for a restricted license sentence, and create a permanent criminal record.
2. Drinking and driving puts them and their friends in danger
Getting into a car with someone who has been drinking is incredibly dangerous, so your teen should understand how important it is they don’t drink and drive or get a ride from a friend who has been drinking.
If your teen is impaired behind the wheel while driving their friends, it could be a serious charge. In Tennessee, it is considered child endangerment to drive under the influence (DUI) with a passenger under 18 years old, which is a class D felony if said minor is injured. This could lead to jail time.
3. Excessive drinking at a young age can stay with them their whole lives
Most teens who drink do so in excess, in the form of binge drinking, and it’s dangerous. Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths annually among minors. It can disrupt their growth, their sexual development and affect their memory. The changes in brain development alone can last a lifetime.
4. No matter what they do, you will still love them
As important as it is to make sure your child knows the legal ramifications for their actions and the safety risk of underage drinking, they should also know that if they do make a mistake, they can always turn to you. If they decide to drink illegally but need a ride, they can call you so they don’t make the situation worse.
If your teen is arrested, you should consult an attorney with knowledge of how to handle the situation to hopefully keep their arrest from impacted their future.