Summer raises underage drinking concerns
COPLEY — As spring turns to summer and celebrations begin, local police officials are reminding parents and youths about the dangers of underage drinking.
Copley Police Lt. Luke Marchmon said at this time of year, law enforcement officials keep an eye out for underage drinking.
“People want to celebrate, so there seems to be an upswing in underage drinking at this time of year,” Marchmon said. “We have seniors who are graduating and it’s almost a rite of passage that the kids can party, and part of the partying is drinking.”
Marchmon said he doesn’t appreciate the attitude that “teens will be teens” and underage drinking is inevitable.
“I don’t think that’s an appropriate approach to parenting,” Marchmon said. “You have to model for your kid what you want them to do. You establish that over time by talking to them and demonstrating the appropriate behavior.”
He said parents need to be vigilant about making sure a responsible person at parties and on trips supervises their minor children.
“Parents have to understand that they have to be parents,” he said. “They have to establish rules and they have to stick to them. They have to talk to their children and let them know that underage drinking is not acceptable.”
Marchmon said young people need to understand the consequences of drinking. He said some statistics show that 10 teens die every day in car accidents, and teens need to know how drinking can make inexperienced drivers even more at risk for accidents.
According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teens are at far greater risk of death in an alcohol-related crash than the overall population, despite the fact they cannot legally purchase or publicly possess alcohol in any state. The agency’s 2006 statistics show that among 15- to 20-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes, 31 percent of the drivers who were killed had been drinking.
For parents who think hosting a party for youths and providing alcohol is OK, Marchmon has a warning.
“It’s illegal to host or allow teen drinking at parties in your home,” he said. “You can be prosecuted. You can also be sued civilly if a child was drinking at your residence, left and got into an accident.”
He added that it’s also illegal to provide a teen with alcohol if the teen’s parent said it is OK.
Marchmon also warned that it’s against the law to rent a motel room for youths to hold a party unsupervised.
“People think it’s OK to rent a hotel room,” he said. “They say, ‘They weren’t going to leave the room,’ but how do you know that?”
Marchmon said those prosecuted for allowing underage drinking could receive up to six months of jail time or a $1,000 fine. The township has prosecuted people, he added.
While parents are the first line of defense in preventing underage drinking, Marchmon said local police are doing what they can as well.
“We send information to all of the local hotels and also to the local establishments that sell alcohol and we provide them with dates of proms and graduations for area high schools,” Marchmon said. “We hope to help them be alert that there might be underage people coming in that want to try to purchase alcohol. Generally, the establishments tell us they appreciate the information.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapters also help spread the word about the dangers of underage drinking, as do community Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) officers, Marchmon said.
“The whole idea is to keep these young people safe,” Marchmon said. “We have to not look at this as a right of passage because they are seniors and they are graduating. We want these young people to go to college and have a productive life.”
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