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St. Joseph Youth Alliance
5223 Mitchell Avenue
St. Joseph, MO 64507
(816) 232-0050

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Drunk Driving Not the Only Risk For Underage Drinkers

Many will recognize the acronym MADD as the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The group MADD 1 is actively involved in educating teens and parents about the dangers of underage drinking and, as their name suggests, grew out of the grief from losing a child to an alcohol-related traffic fatality. But MADD is
behind research which shows that kids who drink before age 21 face many more risks than drunk driving.

The organization, together with Nationwide Insurance, sponsored examination of data from the National Traffic and Highway Safety Transportation Administration, the FBI and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which had been collected in 2010. The study found that 68 percent of underage drinking-related deaths do not happen on the highway. That’s right, underage drinking does raise the chances that a young person will be injured or killed in an automobile accident, but according to the research, 32 percent of the deaths were traffic fatalities but many more dangers took young lives.

The vast majority of alcohol-related deaths among minors weren’t from car crashes; they were murders (30 percent), suicide (14 percent), alcohol poisoning (9 percent) and other (15 percent).

In 2011 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 25 percent of adolescent’s ages 12 – 20 had been drinking during the month prior. Some of those kids were able to buy their alcohol illegally. The astonishing fact was that 21.4 percent of these minors didn’t lie to buy alcohol; they simply got it from an adult in their life. Many times it was a parent or guardian who purchased the alcohol for the young person.

Parents or adults who provide alcohol to kids and then keep them from driving need to be aware of the dangers still involved with underage drinking. Parents need to do more than take the car keys away if they think their kids are drinking. For starters, parents should never provide underage children with alcohol. As the MADD report shows, drunk driving is just one of many deadly risks associated with underage drinking.

The two strongest influences on young people come from peers and parents. Parents may think that kids only listen to their friends, but that is not the case. Even teens that have been drinking and are about to head off to college can be influenced by a parent who takes the time to sit down with them and explain the various dangers associated with drinking. MADD offers parents a handbook entitled Power of Parents to help moms and dads have these all-important conversations.

In this area, BC Rocks is a strategy to protect underage kids from exposure to alcohol. Parents who sign up for BC Rocks let others know that their home is one where kids will not be offered alcohol. Underage drinking is not inevitable. The risks are too many and too great for parents to give up without trying. Homes that agree not to offer alcohol to minors are one way to keep teens safe from the dangers that can be associated with underage drinking.