As we enter the high school prom and graduation season in Louisiana, it is important for parents to do all they can to ensure that their teenagers stay away from alcohol. Alcohol and driving is a deadly combination for anybody, but especially so for teenagers who are less experienced behind the wheel and in recognizing their limits regarding alcohol consumption.
Parents and teens should always keep in mind that 21 is the legal age for consuming alcohol.
Unfortunately, some of the young adults who attend proms and graduation parties believe that the way to celebrate includes consuming alcohol. It's no mystery how these teens are able to obtain alcohol--oftentimes from parents and other adult relatives or friends.
Louisiana has a zero tolerance law for underage drivers, meaning they cannot have any alcohol in their systems. Besides being subject to fines, violators can lose their driver's licenses for 180 days. It's also illegal for adults--other than a parent or guardian--to purchase or otherwise provide alcohol to a minor.
Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. In 2010, 90 people in the 15 - 20 age bracket were killed in crashes in Louisiana--representing 12.5 percent of all crash deaths.
The month of May 2010, when many graduations took place in Louisiana, 16 teens were killed in crashes--the second highest month for such deaths that year.
Parents should be especially vigilant of their teenagers' activities that surround proms and graduation parties. Responsible adults should closely supervise parties to ensure that underage partygoers do not consume alcohol. Parents should also make sure that their teenagers have a safe way to get to and from proms and other end-of-the-school-year parties.
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission is providing funds to police departments and sheriffs' offices across the state to pay overtime hours for officers to work during weekends in April. These officers will concentrate their efforts on underage drinking and underage drinking and driving. State Police and other federal and state agencies are part of this special effort to save lives.
Proms and high school graduations are important events for teenagers--ones they will likely remember the rest of their lives. It is important that parents do all they can to make sure that their children remain safe while enjoying these celebrations.
Lt. Col. John LeBlanc
Louisiana Highway Safety Commission