Alaska editorial: Parents should ensure that kids graduate safe, sober

Posted: Thursday, May 11, 2006

This editorial appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

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The high school graduation season commences in a few days throughout the Fairbanks area, marking the culmination of years of work for thousands of students. Many have poured their brains, muscles and talents into academics, sports and special activities.

For high school seniors, it's generally the pinnacle of life to this point.

Graduation, however, is also one of those times of the year when underage drinkers, who are already breaking the law though that act of drinking, increase the risk to themselves and become a danger to others by driving while intoxicated.

Many states have some sort of public awareness campaign urging parents to talk to their kids at this time of year about the laws about alcohol consumption and the dangers of drinking and driving. High school seniors, flush with the success of gaining a diploma, are the main target of these efforts, but parents are also an object of the campaigns.

Why parents? Don't they instinctively know to talk to their kids about this stuff?

Apparently not, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Here are a few notes taken directly from NHTSA, from 2003, that show that not all parents are on the ball when it comes to alcohol and their kids:

• A recent survey commissioned by The Century Council, a national nonprofit dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking, revealed that 65 percent of underage youth say they get alcohol from family and friends, meaning they get it from their parents, their friends' parents, older siblings or friends, with or without their permission.

• Between graduation parties, end-of-school celebrations and the free-time and fun of the summer season, some parents can be tempted to host parties for their minor-aged kids and their friends - sometimes with alcohol - with the mistaken belief that it is a safer option for their kids to drink at home than to drink somewhere else.

• Others think back to their teen years when the legal drinking age in many states was 18 and consider alcohol use just a normal part of growing up. But the legal drinking age in America is now 21. Underage drinking is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

None of that is good parenting.

Parents, be smart about graduation, alcohol and your kids. Talk to them. Make sure they have a safe and sober graduation. Do it and make sure their first days out of high school aren't spent in jail or in a hospital - or worse.

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