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The Hoboken Effect: Teens & drunk drivers.

Swallow the urge to scold for safety's sake.

taxi in the rain at nightCall it The Hoboken Effect, or call this The Amnesty Effect. Either way, the idea is to keep your teen safe from drunk, or otherwise addled drivers.

Since they were old enough to begin to understand, I’ve told my kids this fundamental truth – one every adult with friends has probably discovered –

No matter HOW cool you think things are going, one night will come along with a wild card. It may be some friend of a friend’s cousin’s brother or sister. Someone who seems fun, harmless, smooth as silk, charming, safe…

… But somehow – you may never be able to explain, even to yourself – you, and maybe others – will end up stranded, possibly drunk, in Hoboken, needing help.

Frantic, and freaked out yourself, your mind will race: “How freaked out will my folks be if I call them now? Will I ever leave my room again? Should I try to go home with this drunk driver? Or give up everything I know, start a new life and identity here in Hoboken…”

Really. You do not want to be that vision of a freaked-out, bulging-eyed parent. “You WHAT? You drank?”

You might as well place a funnel in the mouth of any random driver, start pouring moonshine, cut the brake lines, put your kids in the back seat, and point the vehicle toward the nearest cliff.


This is not to say actions have no consequences. But which call would any parent rather get in the middle of the night? A frantic call from your child, seeking rescue from a drunken driver, or a far calmer call from the authorities, asking for identification of bodies at the morgue?

Telling your teen you’ll be there, anytime, for that rescue, should it need to come someday – no questions asked, does not have to compromise your family values regarding the use of drugs and alcohol.

It can, in fact, present an opportunity to talk about them and reinforce them. Not only does talking ahead of time give your teen a plan, but the 24 or 48 hour “cooling off” period after such a rescue gives both parties time to calm down and talk, compassionately and firmly about any necessary consequences, and best of all – solutions.

It isn’t easy to talk about drugs, alcohol, substance abuse, and drunk driving with your teen. Knocking on that door and approaching that subject sure beats opening your car door and placing memorial flowers on the side of the road each year at the site of a tragic accident.

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