The Wilkesboro Police Department’s recent underage drinking and driving cases reflect an ongoing serious problem.
On the morning of July 8, Officer P.L. Parsons stopped a 17-year-old high school student driving 85-90 mph in a 55-mph zone on U.S. 421 West and charged her with driving while impaired provisional, speeding and not having an operator’s license. Two others in the car were charged with underage consumption of alcohol.
Just the prior night, Parsons stopped a 19-year-old driving 70 mph in a 50-mph zone in a nearby area of U.S. 421 West and charged the driver with similar offenses.
Strong policing of U.S. 421 and other heavily traveled roads to discourage drinking and driving is appropriate.
Obviously, the problem needs to be addressed before it gets to that point.
This is especially the case for underage drinking and driving. It begins with discouraging underage drinking itself, including by having conversations with young people about the issue.
This is the focus of “Talk It Out,” an N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission initiative with a strategy for talking to young people about alcohol consumption.
Research for the initiative found that 94% of North Carolina’s public school students see underage drinking as a problem and eight out of 10 N.C. middle-schoolers believe parents could help prevent underage drinking by talking to their kids about it more often.
The research also found that knowledge of the impact of underage alcohol consumption is lacking and both parents and youths are uncomfortable talking about it.
Research shows that because brains of teens and young adults are still developing, alcohol consumption is more harmful to them than to adults.
Drinking during this critical growth period can cause lifelong damage to memory, motor skills (ability to move), coordination and other aspects of brain function. Underage “binge drinking” is especially problematic.
People who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin at age 21.
“Talk It Out” recommends having lots of little conversations about the dangers of underage drinking instead of making it a big production.
The “Talk It Out” website, at https://www.talkitoutnc.org/, provides good advice from multiple sources on what to say.
The website also recommends what to do, including spending time and being involved with your kids; staying alert about what’s going on in their lives and the significance of what they say; and setting a good example.
Fourteen is the average age a child in North Carolina first consumes alcohol, so the conversation should start in elementary school.
Parents and not friends or the Internet should be the best source of information for kids, so face peer pressure with parent power and talk to your children about underage drinking.