THE BLOG

How Safe Is Your Teen From a Drink-Drive Conviction?

22/10/2014 12:08 BST | Updated 21/12/2014 10:59 GMT

What's the worst thing that could happen when your child starts driving?

OK, so they're not a child. By the time they get behind the wheel they're a young adult. They're old enough to learn to drive, so, it must follow, they are old enough to take on all the responsibility that goes with driving.

The responsibility for participating in an activity where 1,713 people were killed and 181,957 people were either injured or seriously injured last year alone. Where a disproportionate number of those who are killed or injured are under 25.

We all want to keep our kids safe, so what's the best thing we can do to stop them becoming one of those statistics?

What's even more alarming is that a large number of these deaths (230) and injuries/serious injuries (9,710) were entirely preventable.

So as a responsible, caring parent, doesn't it make sense to do all that you can to make sure your youngster isn't a statistic?

If you knew the cause and the solution, wouldn't you want to share it with your child?

We know the cause. It's alcohol. Drink-driving is the cause behind almost ten thousand deaths, injuries or serious injuries. But they aren't just statistics, they are lives lost and families devastated.

What is the solution?

Every year, we meet hundreds of people who have been convicted of drink-driving. They're sent to us as part of the sentence they receive from the courts, often because they're repeat offenders. We teach them about alcohol and driving.

At first they're usually in denial that they have committed an offence - it's all just a big mistake or completely unfair - which is surprising, since they have been arrested, charged and processed through the criminal justice system.

As a Senior Probation Officer once said to me: 'Don't ever ask a person with a drink-drive conviction to choose your lottery numbers for you because they are the most unlucky folks around.' They will always say that it was just that one time, or they weren't going very far, or that events beyond their control conspired to get them breathalysed. It's our job to change their thinking, so they understand why drink-driving is a criminal offence.

There is a point on every course where the penny drops. On every course, without exception, someone will tell us that, if they had known what they have learnt from us when they first started driving, they would not have offended.

Isn't that gold dust?

Let me give you an example of the sort of thing that creates this transformation in the minds of previous drink-drivers. The video below demonstrates the change in reaction times that comes from being distracted, which mimics the effect of alcohol. Take a look, then try it for yourself.

If something as simple as this, which we know how to teach, is so effective, isn't it a no-brainer to move this education into pre-test driver training, so everyone can know it?

The resources that we use already exist (obviously). Adding this to driver education would reach a large number of young people, at the time where they're forming their relationship with alcohol. It would catch people at a point where they're hungry to learn, because they want their driver's license. And it wouldn't cost the taxpayer anything, because people pay for their own driving lessons.

If it's as effective as it promises to be, it could more than repay that personal investment in reduced insurance premiums alone.

The cost to the economy of drink-driving is estimated to be over £800 million a year. The cost to individuals behind those statistics is immeasurable. We don't want you and your children to be among them.

You can do three things today:

Sign our petition calling on the government to require that this training is a mandatory part of pre-test education. The training will cost less than the price of a driving lesson and will save lives.

Buy a home breathalyser for your family. Whether they drive or not, teach them not to get in a car with a driver who has alcohol in their system. If they can't blow clear, they can't drive.

Download our free guide on 'How to save your teen from the humiliation of being a drink-driver', which explains what could happen to your child if they face a drink-drive conviction, and how long it takes for their body to be alcohol-free.

Join in the conversation at #DriveSober

I'll let Jane have the final word:

This blog was first posted on Swanswell's website at www.swanswell.org/blog