With prom and graduation season in full swing, it becomes increasingly important for parents, teachers and friends alike to be aware of alcohol use, which contributes to the leading killer of teens in Pennsylvania, reminds state Rep. Dave Hickernell (R-Lancaster/Dauphin).
More teens die from alcohol-related injuries than from all other causes combined. This all too available substance has been proven to be a frequent contributing factor in the three leading causes of death among 15 to 24-year-olds – accidents, homicides and suicides.
“The latter part of the school year is a time for celebration,” said Hickernell. “That time can easily be spoiled, and kids need to realize that a good party can be one that does not include alcohol.”
The use of alcohol has become an increasing concern for parents across the country. The average age of a child first experimenting with alcohol is 12.8 years old, roughly the age of a seventh-grader. In fact it remains the choice illegal substance among children, with one in four middle/high school students reporting alcohol use in the past 30 days. Almost 15 percent reported excessive or binge drinking in the past two weeks alone.
Studies have shown that the likelihood of addiction is much higher among those reporting to have begun drinking before age 15. In fact, those children experience addiction rates up to four times as high than those reporting drinking only after age 21.
Nationwide, 290 alcohol-related deaths involving victims age 15-20 were reported during the 2005 prom season.
Parents should also be aware of the penalties for supplying alcohol to minors, a practice which is against the law. Some adults feel it is okay to allow underage partygoers to drink in their homes, as long as they (the adults) are there to supervise. Parents need to stop this practice, and also be aware of anyone who may have been drinking before coming to their home. Throwing a party where underage drinking occurs could result in fines and jail time for those who are hosting and those are drinking.
Hickernell said laws are already very strict for underage drivers. Currently, any person under 21 can be arrested for driving under the influence with a blood alcohol level of 0.02 percent, essentially any measurable amount of alcohol. The penalty for underage drinking is a fine of up to $500 and driver’s license suspension.
Hickernell encourages parents to talk with their children about the laws and the dangers related to drinking. Another way to help is a simple phone call. By calling 1-888-UNDER-21(1-888-863-3721), anyone can report underage drinking parties whether they are planned or in progress. Callers have the option of doing so anonymously.
For more information, visit Hickernell’s Web site at RepHickernell.com and click on “Alcohol Education.”
Rep. Dave Hickernell
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
House Republican Public Relations