WASHINGTON – Carolyn “Carrie” Hoover of Derwood has a message for parents of teenagers: Don’t give up talking to them about underage drinking.
Hoover’s son John, 20, died along with three others in a crash in Olney after getting in a car with a drunken driver last May. The driver, who fled the scene immediately after the crash, was caught and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
“I think about it all the time,” Hoover said. “I used to have three boys. Now I have two. It breaks my heart.”
Hoover appeared at a news conference at the National Press Club Tuesday sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving to promote PowerTalk 21 day, Saturday, the national day for parents to communicate the dangers of alcohol abuse to their children.
“It’s not enough to tell your kids to not to drink, it’s not enough to tell your kids not to drive. You have to do it over and over,” Hoover said. “Don’t give up talking to them.”
To help, MADD created the “Power of Parents” handbook, a set of guidelines for parents unsure of how to communicate the dangers of alcohol abuse to their children.
“While these tools are important, it’s the conversations themselves that save lives,” said MADD National President Jan Withers.
Robert Turrisi, a professor at Penn State University who specializes in bio-behavioral health and prevention research, said studies show that conversations between parents and teens about alcohol can significantly reduce underage drinking behaviors.
What parents need to understand, according to Turrisi’s research, is that children often pick up moral behaviors and opinions about alcohol from their parents.
“Some parents have the view that by providing alcohol to their kids themselves, they’re better off,” Turrisi said. “But science shows just the opposite, and that the teens are much worse off later on in life.”
Statistics provided at the news conference show 26 percent of teen drinkers get their alcohol from parents or direct family members.
MADD created PowerTalk 21 day last year to be observed annually on April 21, during Alcohol Awareness Month and just before prom season.
To promote PowerTalk 21 day, MADD partnered with governor’s spouses, law enforcement, educators, medical professionals, and policy officials to host free parent workshops across the country leading up to April 21.
“I’m proud to support MADD’s effort,” said Sally Ganem, first lady of Nebraska. “They truly offer parents invaluable resources that could save the lives of their teens.”
Withers said the group’s goal of saving lives isn’t a possibility, but a certainty. According to Withers, PowerTalk 21 resources have reached a parent every 30 seconds this year.
“Today’s youth could be future drunk drivers. We want to prevent any future drunk driving and keep them safe now as children. I love the Power of Parents because it’s doing that,” Withers said.
But for Withers — who lost her 15-year-old daughter to a drunken-driving accident 20 years ago this month — Hoover, and others, the pain of losing a child will forever temper MADD’s accomplishments.
For the one-year anniversary of her son’s death, Hoover planted a tree in the front yard of her home. Though still in grief, Hoover said she plans to continue working with MADD in the future.
“I hope to spread the message,” she said. “Don’t let this happen to you or your family.”