We are heading into graduation season and you don’t need to have a grad to worry about safety. Where there is a party and teens are involved there is always enhanced risk. The good news is that you can make a difference. To help ensure your teens safety during graduation season and throughout the year there are some things you should know and do.
1. The legal age to drink alcohol is 21 for multiple reasons and, in states where marijuana is legal for recreational purposes, there is a reason the legal age is again 21.
Underage alcohol use is more likely to kill young people than all illegal drugs combined. What we know is that whether it’s drinking and driving, sexual or physical assault, or through unintentional injury, underage drinking is a leading cause of death and injury among teens.
Marijuana use by teens can carry immediate and long term consequences. What we are finding is that teens are now more likely to get behind the wheel of a car after using marijuana than alcohol and the risks and consequences are the same. We suggest you talk directly to your teen about this and learn more about the consequences of marijuana use here.
Beyond physical danger, underage drinking and marijuana use can also translate into criminal records and jail terms that your teen will have to deal with for years to come. For example, if your teen is convicted of Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or marijuana disclosure of the conviction may be required on college applications, job applications, or when applying for certain types of financial aid. Or worse yet, if your teen provides alcohol to other underage teens and one of them is seriously injured or killed, they could be looking at lots of jail time and all the consequences that go along with that.
2. Sometimes Other Adults Provide Alcohol
We are fortunate that this does not happen as often in our community as it does in others but depending on the year, 11-20% of Bloomington-Normal 12th graders report they received their alcohol from another adult with permission. And, those reporting they got it at a party account for 27%-51% of our 12th grade students.
The best way to handle this is to only allow your teen to attend parties if you know and trust the host parent will not provide alcohol. However, if your teen is like mine were, social circles can get big and we often don’t know all of the parents. In this case, it is important you talk with your teen about your expectations, ensure they have an exit plan and always know to call you for help.
3. Illinois has Social Host Laws
Not only is it against the law for teens to provide alcohol to other teens, it is against the law for a parent to knowingly provide alcohol or a space where underage alcohol consumption takes place. The space could be your house, property you own, a hotel room you rent, a boat or anything else you own or rent. Here is what the law says:
• If you allow or host a party at your house and provide alcohol to people under age 21 (or if you know or should have known that they are drinking alcohol), you are guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. This will result in a fine. Note that you are held responsible regardless if you are the one who provides the alcohol AND regardless if you are home or not.
• If a minor who was drinking at your house injures or kills someone, you are guilty of a Class 4 felony. This could result in both a fine and/or jail time.
• You will not be guilty of violating the law if you request help from the police to help remove the underage drinkers and stop the gathering. This only holds if you are the first one to call. It does not work if the police show up after a complaint from a neighbor and then you ask for help.
4. Drinking Any Amount and Driving Is Not an Option for Those Underage
Most people know the legal limit for those over 21 is 0.08%. But did you know there is a zero tolerance policy for those under the age of 21? This means that any amount of alcohol in their system can get them into trouble.
• 1st OFFENSE: Three-month suspension of driving privileges; six-month suspension with refusal of alcohol testing.
• 2nd OFFENSE (before age 21): One-year suspension of driver’s license; two-year suspension with refusal of testing.
Teens have enough of a challenge with important life tasks, and don’t need the extra worry and self-blame that can come when you or they are responsible for a friend’s injury.
For additional help with the conversation, visit www.BNParents.org