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We can all help curb underage drinking

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Caroline Howey

My name is Caroline Howey and I am doing an internship with the Lancaster County Partners for Youth Foundation, and assisting with the Office of Research and Development at the school district.
During my work here, I learned of the work of the Coalition for Healthy Youth, a network of public, private, civic, and faith-based representatives focused on preventing underage drinking and drug use within the county.
My work here has caused me to think about alcohol use by young people in our community. One of my most memorable experiences occurred when I was 14 years old. It was the Tuesday after spring break. One of my friends had missed school the day before.
Being a concerned and caring friend, I told her I had missed hanging out with her the day before and asked if she was feeling better. She said she was not at school on Monday because she had spent her entire spring break partying and drinking and had a terrible hangover as a result.
I was shocked and hurt that my friend would engage in that type of behavior. I thought to myself “This is a sad situation. This girl is only 14 and has already started drinking alcohol.”
That incident occurred eight years ago, but underage drinking is still a problem in Lancaster County.
Alarming statistics
According to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department and Lancaster Police Department, nine minors were issued tickets for possession of beer in April. There were also four underage alcohol violations for minors ages 16 and under during that month.
In March, 11 minors were given tickets for possession of liquor. Five minors were also issued tickets for possession of beer in March.
A total of 31 minors were charged with underage drinking after two party dispersals were conducted during February.
There were also two incidents in which alcohol was sold to minors during that month. While the problem with underage drinking is bad enough, it might be learned from adults who drink and drive.
There is no doubt that DUI collisions result in heavy pain and suffering for the victims’ families. A DUI collision can result in the paralysis or death of a loved one. I have heard many heart-breaking stories about people who have lost a loved one in a DUI collision.
But the one that moved me the most was a college classmate’s story about the tragic death of his mother. He told me she had gone on vacation and was hit by a drunken driver while driving on the interstate. I barely knew him, but I felt so much sympathy for him. I could not help but think about how devastated I would feel if one of my loved ones died as a result of being in a DUI collision.
Even though there are many tragic stories about DUI collisions portrayed in the media, some people still choose to drink and drive. They forget the negative consequences that result from their risky actions.
According to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department and Lancaster Police Department, there were 14 reports of DUIs during the month of April. The S.C. Highway Patrol concluded there were a total of 22 DUIs and seven DUI collisions during that month. In March, there were eight DUIs. In the same month, highway patrol reported 21 DUIs and 10 DUI collisions.
No easy solution
These numbers are staggering and reflect that there is a problem with underage drinking and DUIs in our community.
There is no easy solution to solving these problems, but we can work together to try and alleviate this troubling situation.
Law enforcement and the Coalition for Healthy Youth are trying to improve the situation, but they need our help. We can help them by supporting programs such as Parents Who Host Lose The Most, which aims at preventing parents from hosting parties where alcohol is served to minors.
We can also help curb the rate of underage drinking by stepping up and reporting any case of underage drinking that we witness, even if that means losing friends. We can curb the rate of DUIs by drinking responsibly and making sure we have a designated driver when we, or our friends, have had too much to drink.
Caroline Howey is an intern with Lancaster County Partners for Youth Foundation