Keeping kids safe by preventing underage drinking


The weekend is finally here, July 4, an American holiday designated to celebrate the nation’s freedom. Often enjoyed over a 3-day weekend, of red, white and blue festivities such as, parades, picnics, backyard barbecues, fireworks, friends, and family. Unfortunately, another common occurrence during the holiday weekend is underage drinking and impaired driving.

Based on data recently released by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over the Fourth of July weekend, the number of daily emergency department visits for underage alcohol consumption is estimated to increase over 80 percent nationally. In addition, during this three day holiday, from 2008-2012, 765 people lost their lives in crashes involving drivers with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more. These fatalities account for 40 percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities over the same five-year period. Young drivers are consistently over-represented in fatal alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. On average in 2012, one person was killed in a drunk driving crash every 51 minutes, nation-wide.

The Wichita Mountains Prevention Network (WMPN), a nonprofit serving Southern Oklahoma, wants to reiterate that underage drinking is a harmful rite of passage and impaired driving costs our communities too many lives. The group believes that Oklahoma communities have a responsibility to prevent underage drinking, underage alcohol use, and impaired driving. A central mission of WMPN, and the seven local county coalitions they serve, is educating community members about Oklahoma’s Social Host Law.

Responsible Oklahomans should familiarize themselves with Oklahoma’s Social Host Law, regarding the many get-togethers that will take place during this holiday weekend. Most people know it’s illegal to buy alcohol for a minor but they don’t fully understand the new Oklahoma’s Social Host Law, that invokes graduated penalties meant to deter and ultimately prevent dangerous gatherings from taking place before a child is seriously injured or a death occurs. Also known as “Cody’s Law,” it was named in memory of Cody Ryan Greenhaw, who died in 2004 at age 16 during a gathering in a neighbor’s home where the friend’s parents allegedly knew alcohol and drugs were routinely being used by teens in their home.

“Oklahoma’s Social Host Law means it’s up to you, to make sure children and teens don’t drink in your home or on your property,” said Brooke McCuiston, WMPN Region 11 RPC Director. “If children under age 21 are drinking at a gathering, and you provide the location for that gathering, you are responsible. This includes if you are an adult or a minor, whether you rent or own, or, if you provide the location.”

Oklahoma’s Social Host Law will keep kids safe and out of trouble. The law will prevent potential tragedies. Adults must acknowledge the negative consequences of underage drinking, including drunk driving, death or injuries in motor vehicle crashes, accidental injury caused by impairment, physical assault, sexual abuse, unsafe sex, academic problems, health problems, suicide attempts, vandalism, property damage, and involvement with the criminal justice system. These life-altering events occur every hour, every day in our communities.

“During the holiday weekend, we all want to have a good time. We also want to be safe and ensure that this holiday celebration doesn’t end in tragedy,” states Lisa Barnes, WMPN Executive Director.

For more information please visit www.wmpn.org, or call (580) 355-5246.

Reach Tinita at (580) 482-1221

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