Coalition: Teen drinking rises on graduation week

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

As the school year draws to a close, one statistic always catches Shelby County Drug Free Coalition Project Coordinator Carol Williams’ attention.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 60 percent of all alcohol-related traffic fatalities during the weeks of prom and graduation nationwide involve children between the ages of 15-20.

“Year after year, we see much higher rates of accidents involving children,” Williams said.

High school graduations typically bring more house parties possibly involving underage alcohol consumption, and many parents are unaware of the consequences of hosting such a party – even if they are unaware alcohol is present.

“Alabama has a very strict open house party law,” Williams said. “Even if kids have alcohol and the parents don’t know about it, the parents can be held liable.

“If a kid drinks at an adult’s house, leaves the house and gets in a wreck and injures somebody, the adult can be sued for monetary damages,” Williams said.

According to the Drug Free Coalition, parents can be prosecuted criminally if children drink at their house – even if the adults are not at the party.

Williams said many potential teen drinking problems can be prevented by parent involvement.

“The main thing is to monitor your children and know where they are going. If they say they are going to a friend’s house, check with the parents and make sure an adult will be supervising,” Williams said. “Make sure there will be no alcohol present at the party.”

Williams also encouraged parents to talk with their children about the “serious consequences” of drinking and driving.

“Talk to your children now about the dangers of drinking and driving. Let them know you have the expectation that they will not drink and drive,” Williams said. “It’s a fun time, but parents shouldn’t let go just yet.”

To report a possible open house party involving underage drinking, call the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office at 669-4181 or submit an anonymous tip at Shelbyso.com/report.php.