January 9, 2012

While the story of young lives lost or forever altered [“Man who fled Olney crash gets 20 years,” Metro, Jan. 6] provided a number of teachable moments for parents of teenagers — from the consequences of underage drinking and drunk driving to parents’ liabilities for the same unlawful actions — there remains the most practical and real-life lesson that every parent should impart: No one should ever ride with a drunk driver.  

Even parents with every confidence in the world that their teen won’t drink alcohol would benefit from unabashedly communicating to their children (even those who are adults) that if they’re out with someone who has made the mistake of illegally drinking, do not make a second mistake of having the drunk friend drive or riding with an impaired driver.  

Today, one-third of drivers ages 15 to 20 killed in U.S. traffic crashes had been drinking, and more than a quarter of those teens killed were legally drunk. Assuring your teens that you will be there to pick them up if their friends are drinking has never been more important. As parents of teens, your role a decade ago was to implore that your child never got into a stranger’s car. Now, it’s just as important for you to stress that they don’t get into an impaired driver’s car.      

Kurt Gregory Erickson, McLean

The writer is president of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.

Regarding the sentencing of the young drunk driver:

I hope parents recognize that we have to teach our teenagers, “Don’t drink. Period.” — not, “Don’t drink and drive.” Teens get a mixed message from the latter (“Oh, so I can get wasted, so long as I don’t drive?”), and both parents and teens fail to consider the multitude of legal and medical risks and consequences from underage drinking that do not involve driving: getting in the car of a drunk driver, rape, sexually transmitted diseases and alcohol poisoning, among others.

Underage drinking is not a rite of passage, and nothing good comes of it. Parents with good intentions who allow minors to drink in their homes, or who don’t have appropriate supervision in place when they are not home, must know the law and the risks they are taking with their children, and they must and find the resources to help their teens make responsible decisions.

Parents need to tell their teens, “I will put up with your tantrums for connecting with parents of your new friends because I love you more than you could ever know.”

Patty Winters, xxxxxx

The writer is coordinator of the Brave and Bold Coalition, a parents organization created after the May 15 crash in Olney that left three dead.