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Drunk driving is terrifying for parents on New Year's Eve. Image courtesy of gubgib at

Drunk driving is terrifying for parents on New Year’s Eve. Image courtesy of gubgib at

Imagine a 17 year old girl.  She’s got a lot of friends, and it is her senior year.  She’s a really good kid.  She doesn’t drink alcohol, and she gets very high grades.  She’s the ASB president of her high school, and it’s a decent sized high school.  She’s a varsity athlete, holds down a part-time job, and is pretty much what every parent hopes their child grows up to be.


I was in 5th grade when Noelle was killed by a drunk driver on January 15th, 1995.  We lived in a tight knit community in San Diego called Scripps Ranch.  Noelle was everything described in the first paragraph- she was ASB president, a really good kid, and on to big things in life.  She did nothing irresponsible that night.  The guy who hit her was driving drunk.  In an instant he took a life, ruined the lives of Noelle’s family and friends, and ruined his own life by committing senseless manslaughter.  This incident rocked the entire community and took the joy out of graduation for a whole senior class.


This story is absolutely horrible.  I’m sharing it with you because I really don’t want it to be your story.  According to the New York Times, New Year’s Day is one of the worst days to be on the road.  40% of driving related deaths involved a drunk driver.  When we’re talking about New Year’s Day, we’re really not talking about 10am, or 4pm.  When we’re talking about New Year’s Day it refers to 12am-5am, when a lot of tired, intoxicated people drive home from New Year’s Eve parties.


So, should you worry about your teenager being out and getting into a little trouble on New Year’s Eve?  Yes, absolutely.  There is a decent chance they will be around alcohol if they are in an unsupervised environment.  However, you also need to think about what time you require them to be home.  When I was 17 I went to a party with all my high school buddies.  I was completely irate with my dad because he required me to be home at 11pm.  I could not understand who was required to come home from a New Year’s party before the New Year.  Now that I am a parent, I 100% understand.  I will actually do the same to my daughter when she’s old enough to drive herself for the same reason; on New Year I don’t trust other drivers.  Otherwise she needs to be going to a place that I feel comfortable with her spending the night.


So, when you’re thinking about what your teenager might be doing for New Year’s this year, consider a few different things.  Consider whether you trust your teenager to make the right decision around alcohol and other party drugs.  If the answer is no, then it’s not a night they need to be out.  Will they protest?  Absolutely!  Sometimes being a parent isn’t about being popular with your teenager though.  The other thing to consider is whether you trust the general public to make the right decision when it comes to drinking and driving.  While you might trust your own child completely, can you trust that someone else isn’t going to do something really stupid?  You can’t live your life in complete fear and never let your kids out, but there are certain situations where it might be a good idea to restrict them for their own safety.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT