When Aria and her brother Davin were growing up, their parents were famous for throwing parties. They were a family of gourmands and loved to host brunches, dinner parties and cocktail toasts. The best champagne flowed even at the most casual occasions, and Aria and Davin grew up believing everyone’s parents spent afternoons and evenings moving from white to red wines, drinking home-brewed beers late into the evening and sipping mimosas the next morning over toast and jam.
When the kids were 10 and 12, their grandmother bought them non-alcoholic champagne and taught them to pop the corks so they could drink from crystal flutes and entertain guests with their cork-popping mastery. Their parents never had a problem letting the kids taste from their glasses, and as they became teenagers, wine at the dinner table was something to be enjoyed by everyone. Their father was British and believed Americans were altogether too hung up about drinking.
Raising Kids In A Culture Of Alcohol
The day Davin graduated from high school had been cloudless and sunny, and the family was feeling on top of the world; Davin had graduated with honors and would be attending Columbia University in the fall. That weekend, his parents threw him a fantastic party; nearly all of his classmates and most of his family and their friends were invited. There were gifts and music and delicious hors d’oeuvres, and of course, plenty to drink.
Davin and Aria’s parents hadn’t necessarily supplied the teenagers with alcohol, but lots of wine, beer, liquor and champagne were present and, knowing the family’s liberal attitudes, kids had brought plenty of their own. By the time the adult guests had had a few glasses of Dom Perignon, no one batted an eye at the sight of teens moving through the house with stemmed glasses or amber bottles.
Teens: Drinking And Driving After Graduation
At around 1 in the morning, Davin and his sister loaded into a car along with three friends—two boys, 17 and 18, and a girl, 16—and left their home with the purpose of dropping off the 16-year-old girl. As the teens headed out of the manicured neighborhoods, they were seen driving recklessly.
Less than two miles from home, Davin ran a red light and collided head on with a newly married couple. He had been going 50 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone. The couple was killed on impact, and Aria and her friend also died as a result of the crash. Two of the boys were in critical condition, one in a coma for several weeks, finally succumbing to his injuries. Davin’s injuries were severe enough to alter his future indelibly. Only one of the teens walked away. Davin’s parents were charged with multiple counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but their guilt and grief was punishment enough.
4,300 Teens Die Per Year In Alcohol Related Deaths
What should have been a time of celebration and enjoyment quickly turned into tremendous loss and suffering. Davin, Aria and their friends were doing nothing unusual, however.
According to the CDC, alcohol use is more common among teens than tobacco or drugs, and 4,300 teens die per year as a result of alcohol use. A 2011 Youth Risk Behavior survey found that 8 percent of teens reported drinking and driving and 24 percent reported riding in a car with someone who had been drinking.
From the period between spring break and the end of the year (and graduation), drinking rates among teens tend to rise. It is during this period that the majority of teen alcohol-related injuries and deaths occur.
What Can Be Done Differently To Help Teens Make Smart Alcohol Choices?
In the case of Davin and Aria, many things could have been done differently on the weekend of Davin’s graduation in order to prevent the terrible accident that occurred. Many adults take the view that kids will be kids; they will find a way to drink.
This view allows some parents to rationalize permissive attitudes around drinking with their children: drinking to excess in their children’s presence, keeping excess alcohol on hand, creating a culture in which all occasions are celebrated with drinking and excusing or encouraging a child’s curiosity in alcohol.
But teenagers need no adult encouragement. What they need instead are tempered voices reminding them of the dangers and encouraging them to always be safe and to never drink and drive. Because if you won’t, who will?