By Renee Brown a member of MADD's Power of You(th)™ National Teen Influencer Group and MADD's Youth activist of the Year.
Hey everyone! My name is Renee Brown and I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about underage drinking and what it means to me. Going into high school, I knew that alcohol would be present. I had seen on various TV shows teenagers having fun with alcohol. The shows also showed what could go wrong because of it. I instantly knew I didn’t want to be a part of that. Freshmen year I saw the direct impacts alcohol could have on my peers and the ridicule that came because of the choices made under the influence. Rumors, wild nights and not remembering the stupid things that they did were not things on my list of things to do. I wanted to remember my stupid mistakes and remember all the silly times I had with my friends. I wanted to remember my high school memories and not become the laughing stock in other people’s memories.
My high school principal approached me and invited me to join a group called YCAE, a group of teens against underage drinking. And because she was my principal and I was a freshman, of course I couldn’t refuse her. I’ve learned so much in this group and this issue has now become my passion. The risk to teens makes me want to fight to give my generation a chance. I want a generation that is able to remember high school and will live to see their children and that the next generation prospers.
The prior generation, our parents, can be the biggest influencers in our decisions not to drink. I want to impress my parents and want to make them proud in everything I do. I put them on a pedestal and look up to them because they are my ultimate role models. I know that my mom and dad are one of the biggest factors in my choice not to drink. Let your parents be yours.
Lastly I want to remind you that it’s the Power of You(th). You have to take a stand against underage drinking. Adults, listen to the younger generation because we hold the power of tomorrow. With great power comes great responsibility, so let’s use the power wisely and take a stand.
My name is Austin Baltierra. I know the challenges and temptations teens face today. Growing up, we try to find ourselves and, naturally, we want to be liked and often base our self-worth on the approval of our peers. The media doesn’t help and can cause us to believe all teens drink alcohol even though most do not. While in high school, I realized that alcohol was not something worth risking my future or my life for. Instead, I focused on my family, my true friends and my goals. I took school seriously and, during my free time, I would write, produce and perform music. I soon made great friends and enjoyed collaborating with many of them on new music. Today, I am so grateful to be a student at Berklee College of Music. I set new goals every day and don’t drink, because I believe my future is worth it.
Melissa Stegner from MADD's Power of You(th)™ National Teen Influencer Group shares her story for Red Ribbon Week.
Melissa sharing her story at the 2012 MADD National Conference
My name is Melissa Stegner. I'm seventeen and a senior in high school. On December 27th, 2007, I woke up to what I thought would be any other normal day. I was 12 at the time, a seventh grader in middle school. I had told my dad the day before that I would go along with him to drop off my grandmother in Pennsylvania. She had been staying with us in Northern Virginia for our Christmas break. That morning, I was not feeling well and refused to go along on the drive. Instead, my brother Sean, who was 14 at the time, went along to keep my dad company. I remember so clearly, my brother had begged me to go. He told me that I could even choose what movie we were going to watch on the ride there. Yet, I still chose not to go. I often wonder how different things would be if I had decided to get in the car with them that day.
My dad, my mother, Sean, and my grandpa left the house around 9 in the morning. My mother was dropped off at Dulles Airport to make her usual trip as a flight attendant to Japan. Around 12 in the afternoon, they arrived in Hazelton, Pennsylvania and dropped my grandmother off. Soon after, my dad called me to tell me that he and Sean were planning to drive home a different route and go shopping at the outlets. This was the last time I would ever hear my dad’s voice.
Later on that evening around 5pm, there was a ring at the doorbell. My sister went to answer it. She then came into my room crying, hysterically. She told me that Dad had died in car accident. I don't remember clearly what happened after this, but I recall that I had yelled at the police officer. Repeating over and over again, "What about my brother? What about my brother? Is he okay? Is he okay?” I later found out that Sean's body was so badly mangled that the EMTs could not check if he had a pulse or not.
My dad and brother were killed by a repeat drunk driver. Her name was Jennifer Carter. She was 27 and had three DWIs on her record in the span of 10 years. And she had a legal driver’s license by the state of Maryland. Jennifer was killed on impact on the day of the crash.
The realization I have over and over again that my brother won't grow up is not easy. But through my work with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Power of You(th) National Teen Influencer Group, I hope that I can save lives and prevent injuries. By sharing my story, I hope to help my peers understand that their actions have consequences, so that they don’t drink underage and don’t become future offenders. I’m thankful to MADD and State Farm for giving teens a voice. I plan on using my voice to make sure that my dad and brother’s deaths help save someone else’s life.
This week is Red Ribbon Week and schools around the country are encouraging young people to live a drug-free life. Did you know that alcohol is the most commonly used drug by youth—more than all illegal drugs combined, in fact? That's why MADD wants to help young people take a stand against underage alcohol use, help schools educate students about the dangers of alcohol and equip parents to have potentially lifesaving conversations about alcohol with their kids. Together, by engaging youth, parents and the community to prevent underage drinking and support the 21 minimum drinking age, we can reduce the deaths and injuries that result from underage drinking.
As part of Red Ribbon Week, MADD and National Presenting Sponsor State Farm® are introducing the newest tool to prevent underage drinking, a booklet called The 411 on Teen Drinking. This booklet is part of MADD’s Power of You(th) program, which empowers teens to resist peer pressure and influence other teens to not drink before age 21 and never get in the car with someone who’s been drinking. MADD is partnering with schools around the country to distribute the booklet during Red Ribbon Week, but teens can also get the booklet online at www.madd.org/youthbooklet.
This week, we’ll also be featuring guest blog posts from some amazing teens, who are part of our National Teen Influencer Group, about their stance on underage drinking. Be sure to check back often to hear what they have to say.
This Red Ribbon Week, whether you are a teen, parent or educator, use your power to make a difference and save lives.
Parents have good reason to be concerned when their teen gets behind the wheel. Young, inexperienced drivers are the most crash-prone drivers on the road, and motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in America.
Parental involvement is a key component in the development of safe young drivers, and as part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, NHTSA offers the following advice to parents and caregivers of teen drivers:
Learn and follow your state graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws – GDL systems have been shown to reduce teen crashes. All states have three-stage GDL programs (learner's permit, intermediate or provisional license, full licensure). During the process, restrictions are put in place so young drivers can gain critical driving experience in lower-risk situations and a gradual introduction to more complex tasks through controlled exposure to high-risk situations.
Encourage your teen to always buckle up – Wearing a seat belt is the most effective protection for drivers and passengers in the event of a crash. In 2010, three out of five 16- to 20-year-old occupants killed in passenger vehicles were not wearing seatbelts.
Create and sign a parent-teen driving contract – A parent-teen driving contract sets ground rules and creates and explains the consequences of breaking those rules. This ensures teen accountability, ownership of expectations and an understanding that driving is a privilege that can be revoked.
Limit teen passengers and night driving – A NHTSA analysis found teen drivers were two-and-a-half times more likely to engage in one or more potentially risky behaviors when driving with one teenage peer compared to when driving alone. That risk increased with multiple passengers. In 2010, 1,326 passengers in young drivers' vehicles were killed in crashes involving young drivers. Most nighttime fatal crashes of young drivers occur between 9 p.m. and midnight. NHTSA recommends a maximum of one passenger in the car with your teen at all times (no passengers if required by your state GDL law) and nighttime driving restrictions starting no later than 10 p.m.
Prohibit the use of electronic devices while driving – Driving while talking on the phone or while texting is risky for all drivers, but especially for teens. In 2010, 368 teen drivers ages 15 to 19 involved in fatal crashes were distracted, accounting for 13 percent of all distracted driving fatalities.