Underage drinking has been treated as a “rite of passage” for years, yet it sometimes takes a tragedy for the public to take notice. The summer incident involving a UNC junior and the deaths of three people, including a 6 year old child, raises serious questions that must be addressed if we are to learn anything from such a preventable calamity.
It’s too easy to place blame solely on the person who chose to drink and drive. Easy access to alcohol within a culture of abuse contributed to this event. While the young man made a horrible, tragic decision, a host of other conditions had to be met for this incident to have occurred. The young man, age 20, was able to obtain alcohol from several sources, each of which was an opportunity to stop, or at least reduce, his consumption. He was also clearly intoxicated (1.7 BAC; twice the legal limit to drive) which, regardless of his age, should have ended alcohol service. Friends, though they reportedly tried to stop him, did not report to law enforcement that an intoxicated person was driving, perhaps to avoid causing him trouble. These contributing factors are mentioned not to shift blame from the accused but to highlight that events such as these are not unavoidable. They can be prevented by a number of community safeguards, diligence in adhering to and enforcement of the law, and a shift in cultural norms that often perceive underage drinking (as well as alcohol abuse by young adults over 21) as “kids being kids.” Even older adults who experience significant legal or other problems due to their drinking are often continuing patterns that began as underage drinkers.
Access to alcohol by those under 21 is far too common in our community and most local youth report that it is easy to obtain. The use of a fake id, sadly not uncommon, can be a serious offense The accused reportedly used a fake ID at two establishments in Chapel Hill, both of which have previous ABC violations. Many establishments check ID at the door but this is simply not good enough to protect both the business and the customer. Bartenders, or the employees directly serving the alcohol, are responsible for checking ID. Servers also need to be much more vigilant in assessing the validity of IDs. A cursory glance should not be considered acceptable, as happens too often. In most cases, there are methods for recognizing potentially false identification and proprietors of establishments selling alcohol should ensure their employees are well trained to know their rights and legal responsibilities.
Local law enforcement agencies, in partnership with NC ALE, have made concerted efforts to reduce underage drinking by checking local convenience and grocery stores for alcohol sales compliance. This year, the Hillsborough Police Department’s Alcohol Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT) also began conducting bar and restaurant compliance checks, with 8 of 11 local establishments properly checking identification. These checks, followed-up with assistance and training, must remain consistent and reliable throughout the county to prevent complacency.
Once again, we are reminded of the quote, “Holding young people solely responsible for underage drinking is like holding fish responsible for dying in a polluted stream”. Everyone, especially adults, has a part to play in preventing these tragedies. We need to both understand our own role and hold others accountable for their parts in order to prevent future loss of life and other serious consequences of alcohol abuse.
Each year Orange Partnership for Alcohol and Drug Free Youth honors one retailer that stands above the rest in commitment to keeping our community safe for our youth. There were several stores considered for this award, but the ultimate decision came down to a vote by Coalition members. Based on their responses, Lloyds was selected as this year’s recipient. Lloyds management has worked with the ADAPT members, allowing them to conduct store environmental scans, sticker shock campaigns (placing “stop sign” stickers on flavored alcohol beverages) as well as increase their signage about checking identification of those purchasing alcoholic beverages. Management has impressed upon employees the importance of checking identification and these efforts seem to have made an impact as they have not had a failure (in law enforcement checks or alcohol purchase surveys) this year.
On Monday, September 14 ADAPT youth representative, Qyani Foushee, and Orange Partnership Program Assistant, Sarah Smith, made a presentation to the Hillsborough Town Board regarding ADAPT and retailer engagement. At the conclusion of the presentation, Mayor Tom Stevens joined Qyani, Sarah, and Paige Hathaway (OHS ADAPT member) to honor Pat Wilson, Manager of Lloyds.
Kate Giduz, newly elected Orange Partnership Co-Chair, shares her experience at the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America's (CADCA) mid-year training in Indianapolis, Indiana.
CADCA's mid-year training not only taught me a great deal about methods to reduce youth drug use, but gave me the opportunity to make connections with other professionals who are similarly passionate about keeping youth safe.
The sessions ranged from non-profit grant writing workshops, to lectures on the latest scientific research surrounding the effect of marijuana on adolescent brain development. Speakers included scientists, physicians, accountants, geographic information system specialists and communication professionals, among others. Particularly helpful to both my position as the Orange County Teen Court Coordinator and OP co-chair, was a presentation which discussed the correlation between alcohol dependence and age. International and Native American coalitions were present for the 5-day training, exposing me to various prevention methods across cultures.
In addition to learning from other coalitions, I shared some of OP's effective efforts with other CADCA coalitions, specifically in regards to ADAPT's youth advocacy accomplishments. I am eager to share and implement the new initiatives I learned about at CADCA here in Orange County.
Above: Gayane Chambless, Kate Giduz and Sarah Smith at the CADCA Mid-Year Training in August.
Recently the Orange Partnership for Alcohol and Drug Free Youth conducted alcohol purchase surveys of local retailers who sell alcohol products. We wanted to share with you the good news that vast majority of stores surveyed checked the identification of the buyer!
If you frequent a particular store, would you be willing to help us congratulate these stores and encourage them to continue to be vigilant?
These retailers passed both Alcohol Purchase Surveys AND ALERT Compliance Checks.
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The Safe Homes Network is a community of parents and other adults who have pledged NOT to provide alcohol, tobacco or other drugs to youth. They are promising to make reasonable efforts to ensure that youth are not obtaining or using these substances in their home or on their property.
The partnership gives network members a directory of others who have signed the pledge. We will also keep members
up-to date on the issue of youth substance abuse through a bi-annual e-newsletter where you can learn how to encourage others to join our efforts. Click the button below to join the Safe Homes Network. For more information, contact Gayane Chambless at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out the conversation on our Facebook page.