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Your think your teenager only drinks alcohol once in a while (with your permission), such as during a family celebration. However, it may be a different story when Susie or Sam is off partying with friends.

According to 2015 data compiled by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, as many as one in seven teens participates in binge drinking, but only one in 100 parents are aware that this is going on. Binge drinking can lead to disaster if the inebriated teenager gets behind the wheel of a car.

Binge drinking explained

There are various thoughts as to how to best define binge drinking, but the clearest probably comes from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. According to the NIAAA, it is a pattern of imbibing where males have five or more drinks, or females have four or more, in a period of about two hours, during which time the drinker's blood alcohol level reaches the 0.08-gram percent level or above. Many young people think of themselves as invincible, so they believe they can handle driving even while intoxicated. However, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, underage drivers who have been drinking are in roughly a quarter of those accidents.

Missouri penalties for underage DWI

Missouri follows a zero-tolerance policy, meaning any driver under the age of 21 who has alcohol in his or her system is subject to driver's license suspension. If the underage driver has a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or above, DWI penalties comparable to those for any over-21 adult may apply.

Affecting life in other ways

While an underage driver who has engaged in binge drinking is a danger out on the road and vulnerable to criminal penalties, a DUI or DWI conviction could bring other unwelcome results. The teen could face suspension or expulsion from school, denied entrance to college, lose scholarships, or be ineligible for sports and other activities. This kind of mark on a driving record can adversely affect a person's career opportunities as well.

Could your teen be participating in this kind of activity? Given the sobering consequences, perhaps a serious discussion is in order.

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