Guest Column: Proms, Parties and Alcohol
David B. Shoar, Sheriff
St Johns County, FL
We are fortunate in St. Johns County to have a wonderful population of young people. You often read of their many accomplishments in this publication. As we approach prom season and graduation I urge parents and all citizens to join with the law enforcement community to do everything we can to help keep our celebrating students safe.
One major concern is underage alcohol use and abuse. In recent years we have seen some promising young people from our high schools killed in crashes where alcohol consumed at parties was a contributing factor.
The 2012 Florida Youth Substance Abuse survey of St. Johns County found 63 percent of high school students had used alcohol in their lifetime. More than 36.9 percent had consumed alcohol in the past month of the survey and 18.3% reported binge drinking in the past 30 days.
The numbers for our Middle School students in the survey is as follows: 26.2% have used alcohol in their lifetime. More than 10% had consumed alcohol in the past month of the survey and 3.6% reported binge drinking in the prior 30 days of the survey. All of the numbers are significantly lower than the survey taken ten years ago.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year olds is a car crash and 23 percent of teen drivers in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol content in excess of .08, the legal limit for drunk driving.
In an effort to reduce these alarming numbers we have joined with the St. Johns Country School Board and the PACT Coalition (Prevent-Act-Change-Together) to create “The Party’s Over” educational awareness and enforcement campaign.
We all should be concerned about the potential risky behavior of young people associated with proms, graduation parties and school year end celebrations.
Here are 7 suggestions for parents to help ensure that their sons and daughters arrive home safely after attending such events:
Have a very specific conversation with your teen about alcohol consumption, driving under the influence and resisting peer pressure that often leads to poor judgment before, during and after proms and parties. Find out who will be driving, their address and phone number and a list of names and phone numbers for each teen passenger. Get a planned itinerary and stress that no changes to it be made without approval. Talk with your teen specifically about how he or she will handle difficult situations such as being offered alcohol or drugs or turning down a ride with an intoxicated driver. Make sure your teen has a cell phone or some other means of contacting you throughout the entire evening and perhaps even set up specific check in times. Program the number of a reliable cab company into their cell phone. They may more comfortable calling for a cab in front of their peers than calling home for a ride. Lastly, monitor your student’s social media sites. Their friends or contacts, evening plans, etc.
It is my hope that our high school juniors and seniors in St. Johns Country will use good judgment and safely enjoy their proms and graduation parties. We at the sheriff’s office will do all we can to make sure the roadways they travel are safe.
I hope this information assists you and your family and please pass it onto friends and relatives in an effort to combat underage drinking. You can get additional information from the P.A.C.T. Prevention Coalition of St. Johns County at www.pactprevention.org. Of course please feel free to contact me anytime at my e-mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org.