Drinking and driving is a major issue facing today’s youth, and it has serious consequences. But why is driving under the influence such a problem? Peer pressure plays a major part. One study showed that only 10% of surveyed teens had not been influenced by peer pressure. 28% of surveyed teens felt that giving into that pressure improved their social standing. Here are four ways peer pressure impacts drinking and driving.

1. Drinking Is Encouraged

Today’s teens face immense pressure to drink.  One 2015 study showed that about 7.7 million Americans between the ages of 12 and 20 regularly consume alcohol. And although binge drinking is on the decline, it’s still a major issue. If there’s one thing that these teen drinking statistics tell us, it’s that drinking is the norm for many teens.

Take this somber story as an example. High school student Meagan Garlanger was described as fearless and competitive. She wasn’t one to back down from a dare. At a party one night, the 16-year-old was urged to drink a quart of cinnamon schnapps.  She drank it and fell asleep, never to wake up again.

In a way, drinking has become a rite of passage. It’s a sign of popularity. The ones who don’t are labeled as nerds, so many teens take to the bottle. But what happens once these teens are drunk? They need to get home. Unwilling to face the consequences of their parents finding out, they drive themselves home or get a ride from a friend who is driving under the influence. It’s a recipe for disaster. The peer pressure to drink is one of the reasons drinking and driving is so prevalent.

2. It’s “Uncool” to Worry About Drinking and Driving

Just as a teen might be labeled as “nerdy” by not drinking, one might be labeled the same way for worrying about driving under the influence. Even if he knows that drinking and driving could result in his first DUI offense, he might be more concerned about the social consequences than the legal ones. Peer pressure is usually the reason a teen gets behind the wheel of a car after drinking.

3. It’s Hard to Find a Designated Driver

It’s no easy task to be a designated driver among a group of drunk teens. As the night goes on, the driver will only face more and more pressure to drink with his peers. If he doesn’t, he risks being the outcast. Many designated drivers end up giving in to their friends. The night ends with someone driving under the influence.

A teen’s definition of a designated driver is part of the problem. One in five teens said that a designated driver could have some alcohol or other drugs. Their only requirement is that the driver isn’t too impaired to drive. With a definition like this, it’s no surprise that they would pressure and encourage their driver to have a few drinks. Unfortunately, even a few drinks can impair a teen’s ability to drive.

4. Other Teens Encourage Risky Behavior

Risky behavior is one of the common traits of adolescents. In all situations, teens tend to push the limits. It’s no different when they’re behind the wheel of a car. A teen is likely to be pressured by other teens to drive dangerously whether they are drunk or sober. In fact, 44% of teens drive better without friends in the car.

It comes down to the brain. An adolescent’s brain is still developing. Impulse control is difficult at this time, leading to risky decisions. Research showed that teens surrounded by their peers have strong electrical signals in their brain. They make them seek pleasurable, often risky, things.

Alone, they are less likely to act on their risk-taking impulses. But intoxicated and among peers, a teen is likely to act on that. Drinking and driving already compromise a teen’s ability to drive safely, and risky behaviors only make it more dangerous.

How To Prevent Teen Drinking and Driving

Driving under the influence isn’t easy to stop, but you can take some steps to prevent it. First, make sure your teen knows the DUI laws. Does he know that he can get a DUI for riding on any motorized vehicle? Does he know the legal Blood Alcohol Limit? Make sure he knows and understands the DUI laws. It’s also important to share true stories about driving under the influence. Studies show that teens are more influenced by stories than stats, so telling stories is a great way to reach them.

Since peer pressure is such a major contributing factor to driving under the influence, prepare your teen to stand up to the pressure. You can role play and explain the different ways out of a bad situation. Let them know that they can always come to you if things get out of hand, no matter what.

There are plenty of ways to prevent teen drinking and driving, but they don’t always work. An experienced New Jersey DUI attorney can help you if all else fails.