Back in June 2015, two college-bound teenagers died and one was seriously injured in a drunk driving accident after leaving a house party in Montgomery County. The fathers of the two boys tragically killed were furious and heartbroken, reporting the parents in their neighborhood often hosted parties in their homes where they allowed teens to drink. A year later, the fathers even pushed for stricter penalties on parents and adults who permitted underage drinking after seeing little change in their community’s behavior, even after the fatal accident.
Underage Drinking Is Deadly
As another graduation season approaches, so does the time of year where underage drinking spikes. According to a report by the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), June and July are the most popular months of the year for teens between the ages of 12 to 20 to consume alcohol. These two months also have the highest rates for first-time alcohol users- about 11,000 teens on an average day taking their first sip!
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that underage drinking takes the lives of approximately 4,300 teens every year. With statistics this devastating, you would like to think parents would be protecting their teens from alcohol-related accidents at all costs. Unfortunately, some parents still believe that serving their teens a few cocktails on special occasions or allowing them to host underage drinking parties is ‘no big deal’ and this mentality is causing significant harm to millions of American teens.
Allowing Underage Drinking is Illegal
Parents have more of an impact on their children when it comes to alcohol abuse than they think. Across the country, a disturbing 25 percent of parents/guardians are the alcohol source for their teens according to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Aside from the parents who are deliberately supplying alcohol to minors, the report also shows that parents have the most overall influence on whether a teen chooses to drink alcohol, surprisingly rising above the influence of their peers.
These alarming numbers are one of the reasons why most states, including Maryland, have adopted Social Host Laws to hold parents and adults accountable for encouraging minors to drink. Parents/guardians/adults who knowingly allow underage drinking on or around their property, and/or are supplying alcohol to underage drinkers directly, are going to be in far more trouble than just a slap on the wrist. In Maryland, parents found in violation of the social hosting laws may be penalized in the following ways:
- First Offense: Misdemeanor with a maximum $2,500.
- Second and Subsequent Offenses: Misdemeanor with a maximum of $5,000.
- Face civil liability for negligence caused by underage guests.
- Face criminal liability or jail time if injury or fatality occurs.
- Face financial consequences for damages.
Maryland parents should not only educate themselves on the social hosting laws but also their teens, particularly if they have children who are no longer minors. Older children who still have friends under the drinking age could face charges of their own for hosting underage drinking parties, so reviewing the consequences of breaking the law is essential when it comes to avoiding legal trouble.
Drunk Minors Make Poor Choices
Parents who allow underage drinking may not have harmful intentions, but their lack of structure puts teenage guests at risk for a number of dangerous possibilities. It comes as no surprise that drunk individuals make poor choices. However, when it comes to drunk teens, whose brains are still not fully developed, their intoxicated choices can be especially hazardous. Underage drinkers are more likely than adults to…
- Suffer from alcohol poisoning.
- Try illegal or prescription drugs.
- Get in the car with someone who has been drinking and/or drive themselves.
- Sustain an injury from reckless behavior.
- Become a victim of assault or assault someone else.
- Participate in a fight.
- Participate in risky sexual behaviors.
- Carry a weapon.
Binge drinking can dramatically increase the chances of these behaviors occurring and is extremely popular among the underage drinking population. According to the CDC, binge drinking is defined for men as consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in a sitting and four or more alcoholic drinks for women. Binge drinking can interfere with the critical development of the teenage brain, as well as increase their susceptibility to a number of other health-related conditions in the future.
Health Risks of Underage Drinking
Alcohol can be extremely harmful to the body, especially in large quantities. Compared to adults, teens who are still developing and growing can experience even more complications from consuming large amounts of alcohol at a young age. Teens who participate in underage drinking could suffer the following immediate health consequences:
- Memory Issues
- Alcohol poisoning
- Coordination Issues
Underage drinking can also lead to a variety of more serious, long-term health concerns, including:
- Risk of dependency
- Liver damage
- Heart conditions
- Brain damage
- Incomplete development
Death may not be at the forefront of anyone’s mind when they pick up a drink, yet the risks are real, particularly for teens. Parents who support underage drinking or simply ignore that it is happening are putting the lives of their own children at risk, along with lives of every other minor around them.
Academic Consequences of Underage Drinking
Celebrating the graduation of your college-bound teen with alcohol is not only dangerous, unhealthy, and illegal, it sends a counterproductive message. The CDC reports underage drinkers are more likely to suffer academically harmful consequences such as:
- Frequent school absences due to illness.
- Loss of interest.
- Inability to pay attention.
- Legal issues preventing attendance.
- Suspensions and expulsions for fighting or engaging in dangerous behaviors.
- Trouble remembering complex information.
When it comes to college, drinking dangers are even more concerning. With endless parties available to underage drinkers and little parental oversight, college freshmen with false views on alcohol abuse can easily set themselves up for failure before ending their first semester. In a report released by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) evaluating drinking trends among college students, alcohol abuse was responsible for around…
- 1,825 deaths
- 696,999 victims of assaults
- 97,000 victims of sexual assault
- 600,000 serious injuries
- 150,000 alcohol-related health issues
In addition, about 28 percent of all college dropouts were related to issues caused by alcohol abuse or dependency, providing more proof as to why celebrating graduation with drinking is most likely not the best way to prepare your teens for college.
How To Prevent Underage Drinking In MD
Despite the many warnings and harmful consequences of serving alcohol to minors, teens are still going to get their hands on it and possibly due to the poor judgment of other parents. You may not be able to control what happens in every Maryland home, but you can take simple steps in your own to reduce the number of underage drinkers in your community:
- Never allow underage drinkers to consume alcohol in your home.
- Confront parents who allow underage drinking and remind them of the dangers.
- Always supervise parties in your home when teens are present.
- Set clear ground rules with your teens on the dangers of underage drinking and what is appropriate.
- Educate your children on binge drinking and the risks involved both immediate and long-term.
- Keep an eye/ear out for underage drinking parties and report them to local authorities as soon as possible.
- If you come home to minors drinking on your property or become aware of underage drinking in your home when you are away, insist the drinking stops immediately and call local police for assistance in dispersing the guests.
Graduation parties are meant to celebrate a new journey for your growing children, not to encourage harmful behaviors. If your child has been injured due to the negligent behavior of another parent, our dedicated team at D’Amore Personal Injury Law is here to help. Our experienced attorneys will fight for the compensation you deserve in your personal injury case, beginning with a free consultation to explore your options. Contact us today to see how we can get justice for you.