Hitting the brakes

There’s one aspect of Christmas that saddens me each year. The memory of the death of the son of a very dear friend. He was, unwisely, the passenger in a car being driven by another young man who had not had his licence very long and who had been drinking quite heavily.

A pointless death that need not have happened.

When you mix the cognitive immaturity of a teenager with plenty of alcohol and a vehicle, the outcome is a youngster, effectively, with a gun ready loaded to play Russian roulette. It could be their death or, as in this case, their friend’s death, or even ours because we just happened to be on the road in the wrong place at the wrong time.

‘‘But, you know, it’s the festive season, it’s barbecue weather, it’s a chance to relax after a hard couple of years, so why not let the kids have a few drinks. If they don’t get their drinks here, they’ll get them somewhere else, somewhere less safe.’’

Sounds good, probably even reasonable. Until one of them decides to drive his mates home at the end of the day. Though his licence conditions don’t allow it. After all it’s not that far.

‘‘OK, but drive carefully.’’

Maybe he’s had more to drink than you realise. Or maybe you aren’t aware that he had headed out to do this. And maybe there’s a bit of showing off on the way. Via a long detour.

We are the only people who can instil responsible driving and responsible drinking in our youngsters. It’s that old story about setting boundaries and consequences for breaches and not saying ‘‘what the heck’’ because we can’t be bothered today.

It’s about knowing our youngster and knowing when it is time to move that boundary a little once the appropriate responsibility and behaviour has been well and truly demonstrated, and when to hold to it. Not abandoning it on a whim.

And it’s about not aiding and abetting our youngster in flouting the law regarding drinking and driving. If we do, then we will have to take some responsibility for having put that bullet in that gun. We could all be lucky this time. Or not.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a safe and incident free festive season. Take care.

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