For most teenagers, December is a wonderful time of year. You get a long break from school and have lots of opportunities to celebrate with family and friends. Sadly, when those celebrations include drinking and driving, the most wonderful time of year can turn into the most tragic. That’s why December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.
National Impaired Driving Prevention Month reminds people of all ages that it’s never a good idea to get behind the wheel of a vehicle after drinking alcohol or using drugs. In December 2020, 937 people died in accidents caused by alcohol-impaired drivers. You should know that North Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. This means that any driver under the age of 21 with any amount of alcohol in their system will immediately have their license suspended for 30 days and possibly face other penalties and fines. Legal troubles and accidents can be prevented by avoiding underage drinking.
How do I say ‘no’ to underage drinking at a party?
Saying “no” to drinking alcohol at a party can be a great way for you to practice your refusal skills. Though this can be hard and sometimes embarrassing, part of growing up means taking responsibility for your decisions and setting boundaries. There are numerous ways you can politely but clearly say “no” to something you’re uncomfortable with. Try these:
- Be honest. Honesty is usually the best and easiest approach. Odds are, you’re at a party with a bunch of friends from school. Tell them that you’re uncomfortable with underage drinking, but you still want to hang out with them and have a fun time. You can also take this opportunity to share some good reasons not to drink alcohol in high school.
- Blame your parents. Tell your friends that your parents will ground you or take away your car if they catch you drinking. Your parents will always be happy to take the blame, especially if it means keeping you safe!
- Offer to be the designated driver. This is one of the best alternatives to drinking alcohol at a party and a major message of Impaired Driving Prevention Month. You never want to drive after you’ve been drinking, and you never want to ride with anyone who’s been drinking, either. If your friends have been drinking, it’s especially important for everyone to have a responsible and sober driver after a party. By offering to be the designated driver, you’re opting out of drinking yourself — and making sure your friends get home safely.
What if I get asked to play a drinking game?
It’s fun to play games at parties, but some games are only an excuse to drink large quantities of alcohol in a short amount of time. This form of binge drinking is extremely dangerous because it’s difficult for the players to keep up with how much alcohol they’ve actually consumed. Binge drinking can lead to blackouts, accidents, alcohol poisoning, and poor decision-making (like deciding to drive after drinking).
If you get asked to play a drinking game, here are some ways you can handle the situation:
- Hit the dance floor and enjoy the music.
- Strike up a conversation with a friend you haven’t seen in a while.
- Tell your friends you’d rather sit this one out and watch.
- Play the game, but use water or soda as your beverage of choice.
What can I do at a party if I don’t drink alcohol?
Remember, just because you want to attend a festive holiday party, that doesn’t mean you have to participate in underage drinking. There are plenty of alternatives to drinking alcohol at a party:
- Hang out with sober friends. More than likely, you won’t be the only teen at the party who isn’t drinking. Find other like-minded people (or bring some along with you) and enjoy the evening without alcohol.
- Focus on the music. Most parties have music — whether it’s a band, a DJ, or someone playing music from their phone through a speaker. Spending all night on the dance floor enjoying the music with your friends is a good way to avoid the pressure to drink alcohol.
- Bring your own drinks. You can choose soda, water, coffee, or anything non-alcoholic. If you don’t want to draw attention to the fact that you’re drinking something other than alcohol, pour your drink into another cup, and nobody will know the difference. By bringing your own drinks, you also reduce the chances of accidentally consuming something that has been tampered with.
What if the party gets out of hand and you want to leave a risky situation? Use the X-Plan to arrange a quick exit with the help of your parents by texting them a previously agreed-upon message. If you or a friend do choose to drink alcohol, it’s important that you never get behind the wheel of a car or get into a vehicle where the driver is under the influence. Call a sober friend, parent, or use a ridesharing app to get a safe ride home.
Stay safe this holiday season (and all year long)!
Choosing not to drink alcohol doesn’t mean you have to miss out on fun. If you’re already looking forward to holiday parties with friends, keep in mind that there are always alternatives to drinking alcohol at a party. As National Impaired Driving Prevention Month reminds us, you can stay safe and sober and still have a great time (all year long). Visit Talk it Out NC and Take the Pledge to avoid underage drinking!