By Aaron Byzak
Hollywood portrays house parties as the quintessential teenage rites of passage where the party-busting cops are the bad guys.
In real life, the cops enforcing social host laws are the good guys. By cracking down on teen parties and underage drinking, they avoid the more tragic ending to the teen party movie.
Social host violators face citations and arrests, fines up to $1,000 or more, jail time and bills for law enforcement services. Not a bad deal considering the alternatives of alcohol poisonings, car crashes, medical emergencies and even deaths.
In 2012, the Center for Community Research, in collaboration with the San Diego County Sheriffs Department, tracked social host ordinance cases involving citations and arrests and created detailed analysis on 70 cases noting troubling facts.
About half of those cited for social host violations were under 21, and three quarters of those parties were hosted when their parents were out of town.
Most of the cases noted medical urgencies varying in seriousness from a 14-year-old girl who was transported for alcohol poisoning, to an unconscious 19-year-old male found lying in the street with a bleeding head wound.
Teen pressures to party and fit in never go out of style. So families need to arm themselves with facts to avoid disaster.
Studies have shown that parents have a significant influence on their teens decisions about drinking. Parents who do not discourage underage drinking may have an indirect influence on their childrens alcohol use.
The North Coastal Prevention Coalition and the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth know that it takes a community approach to prevent underage drinking including parental involvement, school support, effective policies, law enforcement, and teens themselves.
They have partnered with the San Diego County Sheriffs Department to ensure that parents and teens get the message about Social Host Ordinances and underage drinking parties at the Sheriff-sponsored Start Smart classes which bring parents and teens together to promote safe teen driving. More than 2,500 attended the two-hour class in the North Coastal region last year, with another 1,300 so far this year.
This impressive program has become a requirement for parking passes at all high schools in the San Dieguito Union High School District and others throughout the county. We encourage all school districts to consider this program to help our youth to become safer drivers and reduce problems with underage alcohol drinking.
Parents cannot be with their kids 24/7. But they can establish some important ground rules about underage drinking to reduce the risk of a less-than-Hollywood ending.
Aaron Byzak is the president of the North Coastal Prevention Coalition. Learn more about NCPC at www.northcoastalpreventioncoalition.org and San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth at www.sandieguitoalliance.org