Being in a car with a drunk driver can be scary, and that terror can quickly morph into tragedy. It takes a certain amount of guts to tell the driver to pull over, and even more to call the cops on them when they refuse. One teen did exactly that, but what compounds her bravery is the sad fact that the woman she had to call 911 on to stop was her mother.
The 16-year-old girl was riding with her friends in the backseat of her mother’s car in Roswell, Georgia. She noticed that her mom, Deborah Miller, was driving erratically and begged her to pull over more than once. Her mother refused, and that was when the teen, likely terrified in the swerving car, took action. She called 911 to report her mother’s drunk-driving, and the woman is now facing a DUI.
The teen’s community is calling her a hero, which is a fair summation. Drunk drivers aren’t just a danger to themselves and their passengers; they’re also a danger to anyone else on the road. In fact, it’s estimated that someone is killed in an accident where a drunk driver is involved about once an hour. By calling the police when she did, the brave teen didn’t just potentially save the lives of her and her friends, but she may have saved the lives of the people around them on the highway. That’s no small thing.
But what makes it absolutely monumental is the fact that the girl was in an impossible situation. She had to stand up to her mother, not just by asking her to pull over, but by ultimately calling the police on her. That’s something that goes against everything children are taught from a young age to do. She had to question her mother’s judgment, stand up to her and then ensure that she faced consequences for her reckless behavior.
That’s no small feat, particularly when a parent is drunk, which basically guarantees that they are not thinking or behaving rationally. Some adults would hesitate in a situation like that, opting to not step on toes or, absurdly, risk offending the driver, even at the cost of their own safety.
This is typically something parents are tasked with doing with their children, not the other way around. It’s usually parents who worry about their kids getting behind the wheel drunk. Usually it’s Mom or Dad who has to do tough things in the name of the love they have for their kids, like call the police and set consequences in action. It’s hard, but parents often do it because the anger they receive from their children is a small thing, especially when weighed against their child’s life.
When teens under the influence are responsible for nearly a third of automotive fatalities each year, it really seems like a no-brainer. It’s a tumultuous time, when dumb decisions are made, and parents often find themselves having more than one serious talk about the responsibilities that come with a driver’s license.
And it’s a good idea to have those tough talks early: Research has shown that when you start discussing the deadly mix of alcohol and automobiles before your child has access to or interest in either (think middle school), it actually does make a difference.
Still, those conversations and ensuring that your kids meet consequences if they ignore them are never easy.
But if it’s agony for parents, we can only imagine what this teenager was going through when she had to make the very hard but very brave decision to put a stop to her mom’s drunk-driving. Whatever it took, it’s a really good thing that she did it.
Not every teen or child death in a drunk-driving-related crash is the driver. There’s an astounding number of parents out there who get into a car with their children after they’ve had too much to drink. Enough that we know that of the minors killed in a car accident where an adult is drinking, 61 percent of them will be in the car with them.
That’s an ugly statistic, and one that states hope to decrease by adding stiffer penalties and child abuse or endangerment charges to parents who drive drunk with children in their cars.
Keeping your kids safe is a never-ending job, and the conversations we have with them have to evolve as they face new dangers. One of those dangers may very well be a drunk driver, and it’s important to start the conversation young about how to stay out of cars where a driver is drunk.
A huge part of that is teaching kids that they can and should stand up for themselves in any situation where their personal safety or, yes, even their life, is in danger. It should extend to the people they love and care about too — even us, as their parents. There’s no substitute for healthy modeling, though, and if we want our kids to do the right thing consistently, we have to do the same.
Fortunately this teenager made sure her friends, herself and the other people on that highway in Georgia got home safely that night. It’s unfortunate that the person she had to stand up to was her own mother, but we can all hope that maybe this is exactly the wake-up call Deborah Miller needed.