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October 04, 2011

Soberlink Is Like LoJack For Your Drunk Teenagers

Drunk-driving Wanna hear my favorite teenaged drinking story? Of course you do. So: high school, my senior year, I'm one of the few people in my circle of friends who has his "own" car. (It was a used Pontiac Phoenix, paid for by my dad - I was responsible for gas, and not wrapping it around a tree.) The plan for that evening was to go to the hockey game between my school and our cross-town rival; we'd have beer, of course (one of the guys' dads held fairly liberal views on teenaged male beer consumption, and provided us with a twelver of Moosehead, our beer of choice - this was Anchorage, Alaska, and we felt the need to support the economy of our Canadian neighbors). We'd drink a few in the parking lot before heading in to the game. Now, lest you think I was a complete delinquent, we brought a bag of chips, and I was limiting myself to one beer, since I was the driver. We pounded the beers in the parking lot, and I made sure that all of the bottles were disposed of - didn't want to leave any evidence, of course.

The next morning, my dad took the car out to run an errand. When he came back, his expression was stern. I felt a tinge of panic: did I do something to the car? He asked but one question: "Were you guys drinking last night?" The panic threatened to boil over. He suspects something! But we got rid of the evidence! The bottles were gone! I made sure of it!

 So naturally, I lied. "No. Of course not. Drinking in the car? I'm not that stupid." He looked at me for a second, then smiled ever so slightly. "Uh huh. Come here. I want to show you something." We walked out to the car. He opened the back door. "So", he said, "I'll ask you again: were you guys drinking in the car?" I looked down at the floorboards. The bottles were gone.

The bottlecaps, however, were not.

What surprised me was what didn't happen: no yelling, no judgments, no lecture, just this: "You made a bad choice." There was punishment, of course; the car was taken away for a month, with the understanding that if it ever happened again, that month would stretch out into "the time you have left under my roof". I didn't stop drinking, of course; still do, as a matter of fact. But since that day I've rarely been stupid about it; I know my limits, and I know when to not take the wheel. And Beth and I don't hide the fact that we drink from our kids; we usually have wine or beer with dinner, we'll enjoy a cocktail in the evenings, while watching sports on the weekends - hell, we serve booze at our kids' birthday parties. When the kids ask, we explain to them that yes, adults drink, that when they're old enough they can, and that they need to be responsible when doing so. It's my belief that puritanism in regards to alcohol only encourages kids to abuse it. 

So when I was pitched by Soberlink to do a sponsored post about their new product (yes, they're paying me for this post), I was intrigued. Soberlink enables users to transmit results of their personal breathalyzer test (along with a photo of them taking the test AND their GPS coordinates) to other users, via smartphone or email. Here's how it works: 

 Now, does such a device send the message to your kids that it's OK to drink? Is it an easy out for parents who aren't comfortable talking to kids about the dangers of drinking and driving? Honestly, I'm not sure. What do you guys think? Comment away!


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