In local Orange County high schools, May is a time for state exams, field trips and of course senior proms. However, in several high schools across California recently, there were some new events happening on campus-simulated car accidents, “dead students” walking around and of course the grim reaper roaming the school grounds. Why you may ask? The program, developed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, (MADD), travels around the state to educate teens of the dangers of underage drinking and not driving. In 2006 alone, 714 young people were killed during prom or graduation from alcohol related traffic accidents.
The MADD program is called “Every 15 minutes”. The statistics are stark. Each 15 minutes someone dies from an alcohol-related crash in the United States. With cooperation from the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept, Mission Hospital and the CHP, a mock accident scene is created on the campus. Bloodied kids, gravesites, and DUI arrests are all designed to educate kids that one bad decision can destroy the rest of your life, or someone that you love.
In California alone, underage drinking costs the citizens over 7.3 billion dollars. The costs include medical care, pain and suffering, work loss and other problems resulting from youth alcohol addiction. Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who start drinking after age 21. Traffic accidents are the main cause of personal injury in youth but other alcohol related injuries can be caused from alcohol poisoning, petty crime and high risk sex.
Right now you may be thinking, “Not my child”. However, frightening statistics reveal teen surveys stating that over 80% of 12th graders have tried alcohol in the past year and 66% had drank alcohol in the past month. Alcohol is the drug of choice for most teens and that’s why there’s’ a lot of underage drinking going on. More importantly, depending on the amount they are consuming, this could cause irreparable damage to their brain, possible dependence and maybe unwanted consequences in their lives.
The brain continues to develop throughout your twenties. This is why drinking, especially heavy drinking is so detrimental to young people. The part of the brain that controls reasoning and cognitive ability take the longest to mature and these are the areas that get damaged the worst. Memory loss and spatial operations are also damaged. In addition there are studies that show that early drinking behaviors can lead to alcohol addictions.
With all of the side effects of underage drinking, it is even more surprising that many parents are the ones buying and providing alcohol to their kids and friends. The situation has come to the attention of the Mission Viejo City Council and they are proposing an ordinance to fine parents up to $1000 if they are caught supplying alcohol to children under 21. If the proposal passes, it will be the first in Orange County.