From A Parent Handbook for Talking with College Students About Alcohol

Riding With a Drunk Driver

Even if your student never drinks, she/he may be faced with a situation where a decision must be made whether or not to ride with someone who has been drinking. This is just as dangerous as driving drunk. As a rule your son or daughter should not get into a car with someone who has been drinking and should be knowledgeable about effective alternatives (e.g., calling a taxi, asking someone else for a ride home). You should develop an explicit agreement with your son or daughter that he or she never rides home with someone who has been drinking. Again, it is almost impossible to judge how drunk or sober someone is once the person has been drinking, so it is best not to ride with someone regardless of the number of drinks that person has had or how sober the person seems to be. The student should be aware that the techniques for “sobering up” (e.g., drinking coffee) do not work (see our earlier discussion) and that they should not rely on these to make a friend a “safe and sober” driver. Make sure your son or daughter always has enough money for a taxi ride or for public transportation. Encourage them to ride with other non- drinking friends or call home.

If You Spot Warning Signs of a Potential Problem

Most parents underestimate the drinking activity of their sons or daughters. If you think your son or daughter might have a drinking problem, here are some suggestions for ways in which you can help:

  • Do not turn your back on the problem.
  • Be calm when discussing the problem.
  • Let your son or daughter know that you are concerned and are willing to help.
  • Do not make excuses or cover up for your son or daughter.
  • Do not take over your student’s responsibilities but provide him or her with the means to take responsibility for himself or herself.
  • Do not argue with your son or daughter if he or she is drunk.
  • If your child stays out late, stay awake for them when possible, to show you care and are interested in what they are doing.

Preventing a Friend from Drinking and Driving

Your son or daughter may also be faced with a situation where his or her best friend has been drinking and intends to drive. In these cases, your son or daughter should try to stop his or her friend from driving. Many students are reluctant to do so because they feel that it might prove to be embarrassing or that an argument might ensue, or even a physical confrontation. Our research suggests that less resistance will result if:

  • Students do not try to take their friends keys away
  • Students try to arrange for a friend to drive
  • Students arrange for their friend to stay over
  • Students try to reason with their friend

A Parent Handbook for Talking with College Students About Alcohol
By Rob Turrisi, Ph.D.
Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University
© 2010 CO Productions Ltd. All rights reserved.
Note: No part of this text can be used or reproduced without written permission from the author.