WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – With prom season right around the corner, teenage alcohol use has become a topic of conversation in Westchester County as parents and educators alike look to prevent any possible instances of drinking and driving.
Underage drinking – particularly underage binge drinking – has become a national concern over the past decade. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35 percent of high school students drink once per month, while 21 percent binge drank, 10 percent have driven after consuming alcohol and 22 percent rode with drivers who had been drinking.
In total, more than 4,000 deaths and nearly 200,000 emergency room visits each year are attributed to underage drinking.
In Westchester County, as part of the Prom Safety Initiative, officials send letters to high school principals and catering halls each year around prom season, reminding them of the county’s zero-tolerance attitude on underage drinking. Additionally, they’ve devoted several websites to prom safety and have held discussions about how parents can speak with their children about the dangers of underage drinking.
On the actual date of every district’s prom, there will be an increase in emphasis patrols both locally and on county roadways, and police will inspect all limousines going to and from Westchester catering halls. If liquor is found, officers have been instructed to confiscate it and potentially ticket the limo driver.
Some parents believe that educating their children about the dangers of alcohol and binge drinking is the best way to ensure their safety.
Kathy Zimmerman, who has a junior and senior enrolled in Mount Vernon, said that while she may not be able to stop her children from drinking, she can help them do so safely.
“We’ve all been to prom, and after prom parties, and kids are going to drink,” she said on Friday. “As parents, all we can do is make sure they know the pitfalls of drinking, what can happen, and to make sure they do so safely without getting behind the wheel of a car.”
However, limiting underage drinking is something local, county and state police have been eager to curb. Earlier this year, a pair of store clerks were charged with prohibited sale of alcohol to a minor in a Somers sting where a minor partnered with police to purchase illegal booze.
"Education and enforcement go hand in hand," County Executive Rob Astorino stated. "Police will check limousines and confiscate any alcohol on board. But it is parents who have to take responsibility -- not to look the other way. Underage drinking is illegal and is not a rite of passage. Everyone must play a part to keep our kids safe."
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