Letter, Opinion

Preventing underage drinking over the holidays

Dear Editor,

The appearance of snowy weather tends to mark the start of the holiday season here in the Rutland region. It’s a time of year when we focus on gathering with friends and family to enjoy festivities and create memories. It is also the time of year that youth look forward to being home while on break from school and having time to unwind, relax and have fun.
This is also a time of year that the prevalence of underage drinking is high. It’s risky behavior that has real consequences for people of all ages.
Underage drinking can lead to car crashes, accidents, addiction, injury and death. It also poses a liability risk to adults that knowingly or unknowingly act as a conduit to underage youth obtaining alcohol. In Vermont, you and your teen can legally be held responsible for someone under the age of 21 being provided alcohol on your property. The costs are high. You can be fined, you can go to jail, and you can be sued by all of the people affected. Whether you’re a host or a guest, it’s worth being aware of what is happening with teens when you’re home or away for the evening.
High school students and young adults in Rutland County reported through the Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2015) and the Vermont Young Adult Survey (2014), that:
Twenty-two percent rode in a vehicle with a driver that had been drinking and five percent drove while intoxicated within a 30 day period;
Fifteen percent report binge drinking, with drinking mostly occurring either in someone else’s home (59 percent) or their own home (32 percent);
Six percent of 18-25-year-olds drove under the influence of alcohol during a 30-day period; and,
From 2014 to 2015, the rate of alcohol citations for youth under 21 increased in Rutland County compared to a decrease within the state overall.
These self-reported behaviors of underage drinking by our youth underscore the importance of  knowing what you can do to prevent it.  Here are some ideas to help make sure this holiday season is filled with fun and safe celebrations:
Provide alcohol-free activities and events for youth during the holiday season.
Talk to other parents about alcohol-free youth events. After all, it takes a community.
Say “no” to providing alcohol to people under the age of 21.
Report underage drinking to the authorities.
We hope you join in our efforts to keep our teens safe this holiday season by saying no to underage drinking!
Help to shape a healthier, happier Rutland region by joining the Regional Prevention Partnership of Rutland in building a sustainable substance abuse prevention network. For more information, contact Emily Oswald Cummings, Rutland RPP Coordinator, at [email protected]

Peg Bolgioni, Communications Specialist Marketing & Public Relations for the Rutland Regional Medical Center

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