New Research Shows MADD’s “Power of Parents Handbook” Combats Teen Drinking & Impaired Driving

New Research Shows MADD’s "Power of Parents Handbook" Combats Teen Drinking & Impaired Driving
By Stacey D. Stewart, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD)

As a mother of two college-age daughters, I’m constantly aware of the threat impaired drivers pose to their safety and our family’s well-being. 

Car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers, and about one in four car crashes with teens involves an underage drunk driver. Roughly half of children have already tried alcohol by their 15th birthday.

These statistics are incredibly alarming, especially with prom and graduation season around the corner. Fortunately, there is
good news for concerned parents: Groundbreaking research proves a powerful parenting toolkit is effective in combating underage drinking and impaired driving. 

Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) developed the free Power of Parents Handbook, in collaboration with Dr. Robert Turrisi, Professor of Biobehavioral Health and Prevention Research at Penn State, because many parents feel unequipped and uncertain about how to safeguard their teens from this serious public health threat.

The handbook offers parents a wealth of research-based advice, empowering them to engage in meaningful conversations with their teens and steer them away from risky behaviors.

Over five years, Dr. Turrisi and his team conducted research that proves when parents use the strategies outlined in the Power of Parents Handbook; their teens are more likely to resist peer pressure, decline rides from impaired drivers, and make responsible choices regarding alcohol and substance use. They are also less likely to engage in impaired driving themselves.

Recognizing and adapting parenting styles can significantly influence a teen’s behaviors.

For example, teens of positive-style parents are less likely to make risky choices and are more inclined to make responsible decisions. The handbook helps parents understand the effects of their parenting style, whether authoritarian, overprotective, permissive, or positive.

The handbook also empowers parents by providing practical guidance on helping teens navigate peer pressure, find alternatives to drinking, choose good friends, and recognize the dangers of impaired driving. It encourages open and honest discussions about alcohol and substance use, enabling parents to identify any potential issues early on and intervene effectively. In addition, it helps parents teach teens about the physiological effects of marijuana and the dangers of combining it with alcohol.

Unfortunately, we continue to witness troubling trends in youth risk behaviors, highlighting the critical need for parents and guardians to utilize this evidence-based parental guide. 

  • Underage drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths each year and can lead to early addiction as well as many other dangerous outcomes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Kids who start drinking young are seven times more likely to be in an alcohol-related crash. 
  • Motor vehicle traffic crashes are a leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds, according to NHTSA. 
  • Although people under 21 are legally prohibited from drinking alcohol, in 2021 — the latest available data — 27% of young drivers represented in this group who were killed in traffic crashes had alcohol present in their system.
  • Research also shows that teens who do NOT drink alcohol until they are 21 are 85% less likely to become a drunk driver later in life than those who drink before age 14.

Fortunately, numerous studies show that kids say their parents are the leading influence on their decisions about drinking. That’s why parents need to start having these discussions immediately. When we help our teens make smart, safe choices — and acknowledge the complicated world they’re trying to navigate — we can change the dynamics that drive underage drinking, substance use, and impaired driving.

No parent should ever have to experience an impaired driving tragedy and the grief that accompanies such profound loss.

Such trauma drives scores of parents day after day to seek MADD’s victim and victim-survivor support services. We are honored to provide those services and we are continually working on new resources to help parents who are standing on the front lines in the battle against underage drinking and impaired driving.

I strongly believe that MADD’s Power of Parents Handbook, sponsored by Nationwide Insurance, can save lives and help parents shape safer communities, not only for their own kids but for the benefit of all.


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