OHS and Governor Markell launch Underage Drinking Prevention Campaign

by Dave on May 26, 2010

Prom, graduation, senior week, summer vacation! All are occurring in the next couple of weeks. It is an exciting time for teens and parents. However, it can also be a dangerous time for teens as there is often reduced parental supervision and easier access to alcohol. Last year in Delaware four teens, ages 16-20, were killed in alcohol-related crashes and an astonishing 1,115 more were injured according to State Police statistics. Additionally at least 314 minors were arrested for DUI in 2009.

To prevent this senseless loss of life, Delaware Governor Jack Markell is helping the State Office of Highway Safety (OHS) launch a statewide underage drinking prevention campaign called “Under 21. Think. Don’t Drink.” Governor Markell recorded a radio ad for OHS which encourages parents to talk to their children about the dangers of alcohol use, and the consequences – both legal and physical – of underage drinking. The ads are airing on radio stations statewide.

Additional advertising for the campaign, this time in movie theatres and on the sides of shuttle buses at the University of Delaware, will begin running in the next few weeks. The ads feature high school students from New Castle County schools and demonstrate that teens can have fun without using alcohol. The students who are shown laughing and playing with sports equipment encourage their peers to Think. Don’t Drink.

So where do minors most often get access to alcohol? According to studies by the University of Delaware, 31% of teens reported that they got alcohol from their parents, and 49% said they got it from a non-parent over age 21.

That’s why the Delaware State Police have also partnered with OHS under the campaign this week to distribute the Pledge for Life in schools statewide. DSP’s School Resource Officers are distributing the Pledges in high schools through Wednesday May 26th, and are asking students to take them home and sign them along with their parents. These Pledges encourage an open discussion between parents and teens. Students pledge to drive safely, wear their seat belts, never ride with an impaired driver and call their parents for a safe ride home if needed. Parents in turn pledge not to drink and drive, never to ride with an impaired driver and to provide their children with safe transportation home with no questions asked that night if their child chooses not to discuss the situation.

The “Under 21. Think. Don’t Drink” campaign also includes an enforcement component in the Delaware beach area to catch minors who choose to turn senior/graduation week into a drinking event. Between June 6th and the 19th, Rehoboth Beach Police, Dewey Beach Police and troopers from Delaware State Police Troop 7 will conduct foot and roving patrols looking for underage alcohol violations. The State’s Division of Tobacco Alcohol Enforcement will continue these efforts during the last two weeks of the month in an effort to keep minors safe.

The following are a list of Delaware’s penalties for various alcohol-related offenses involving minors:

* Underage Impaired Driving – loss of license for 2 months or $200 fine if minor is driving without a license (1st offense). Penalties for minors with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher may face more severe penalties.
* Underage Consumption or Possession – loss of license for 1 month or $100 fine if unlicensed
* Using False Identification – up to $500 fine or 30 days in jail if fine is not paid
* Entering a Bar or Package Store Underage – $50 fine
* Providing a Minor with Alcohol – up to $500 and 40 hours of community service, parents may also be sued civilly in court

Consuming alcohol is not only illegal for those under the age of 21, but it can also cause health problems in developing young minds and bodies. Every year, approximately 5,000 minors die as a result of underage drinking. This includes motor vehicle crashes, homicides, suicides, and injuries such as falls, burns and drowning.

OHS will continue the “Under 21. Think. Don’t Drink.” Campaign in the fall with the launch of an online video contest. For more information about the underage drinking prevention campaign and OHS’s other safety initiatives, please visit our website at www.ohs.delaware.gov.

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