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For many, this week is registration for the Fall 2007 classes, and many high school students will be out celebrating the last of those summer nights with a drink or two or three or more, and maybe some drugs to enhance the effects of the alcohol. Some young and promising students may die on our roads this week! We know that cars, teenagers and alcohol and drugs don’t mix, so why do teenagers face such high death rates? According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2004 study, 16-21 year olds had the highest fatality rate, and 39% of those deaths were alcohol-related. Why?

Could it start at home? At Deerfield High School in Deerfield, Il Lake County Circuit Judge Raymond Koski told a room full of parents, “Sometimes parents just have to say no.” You can’t tell a child it is ok to drink in the basement at home and then not expect them to drink anywhere else. It just doesn’t make sense! According to the story in the Chicago Tribune, one mother of eight says she is fed up with the drinking and drugs. “This is what the ’70s brings to this, the mindset that [parents] lived through it, so their kids will too. … [But] you give a kid enough rope, they’re going to hang themselves.” Ellen Waltz told the group that included parents grieving for the loss of four high school students who had recently died in a car accident homecoming night, teens drinking and using drugs with their parents’ permission is an open secret, and one in eight high school students surveyed admitted driving after drinking alcohol.

While parents widely believe that a teenager’s peers are more likely to influence them, a Highland Park Hospital psychologist John Jochem indicated that surveys of young people showed otherwise. When parents talk – teenagers listen, even if you think they don’t.

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s 2003 Traffic Safety Facts, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for the age group 4-34.

Parents need to lead by example, and today is a good day to start!

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