INDIANAPOLIS — First responders with Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services are raising awareness as they begin to see more accidents involving teenagers due to drunk driving.
“Starting from the month of April to June, we see an uptick in cases where a teenage driver gets into an accident,” said Mark Liao, medical director of the Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services.
Liao said it is a concerning trend that first responders at IEMS have seen date as far back as 2018.
“Unfortunately, the nationwide statistic is that one in four crashes involving a teenage driver actually involves some degree of alcohol,” said Liao.
Liao said the increase during the April-June months is largely due to prom and graduation season.
“They’re getting close to graduation, they’re feeling that newfound sense that they are adults, they’re moving on to the next stage of their life,” said Liao. “And so they think that they can get more responsibility and maybe get away with a little bit more.”
Marie Gregersmith knows the physical, mental, and emotional pain that comes with drunk driving all too well. Her mother was killed by a drunk driver when she was just 11-years-old and she, herself, has been a victim in drunk-driver crashes several times.
“It just happens so fast you can’t avoid it,” said Gregersmith.
Gregersmith is now the CEO and Founder of Advocates Against Impaired Driving. She spends a majority of her time educating underage youth about the dangers of impaired driving.
“[Teenagers] don’t realize that they can kill themselves,” said Gregersmith. “You’re gonna be an adult, we all realize that, but you’re not of the legal age to drink.”
As graduation parties and proms near, both first responders and advocates want parents to help turn this trend around.
“Parents can have a big role in starting the conversation and setting expectations,” said Liao. “Ask your kids ‘Who’s taking them to prom? To these events? Who is driving?’ and make sure parents tell their kids that it’s not acceptable for anyone behind the wheel to have consumed alcohol.”
“If they have not already had the talk with their children, to abstain from drugs and alcohol, they need to really emphasis it at this time,” said Gregersmith. “Tell them: go to the prom, have a good time, but do not – under any circumstances – do any drinking of any kind. Whatsoever.”
Advocates suggest teens and their parents discuss an exit plan before attending events where alcohol may be present. They recommend having a designated sober driver or using rideshare services.
“If you decide that you wanna go out, you know, you need to get a taxi, Uber, Lyft,” said Gregersmith. “Your own life should be worth the amount of money that it’s gonna take for you to get home.”
“I just want our teens to know that there are many people who care about you, they love you. They don’t want to see you get hurt and we know by statistics that if someone behind the wheel has had alcohol, something bad is can and likely will happen,” said Liao.
To learn more about Advocates Against Impaired Driving or the work and resources it provides, click here.