As undergraduate students embark on their first year or another year of schooling, a few collegiate customs are underway: get yours books, know where your classes are located, attend your first week of classes and when it is all said and done, go to back-to-school parties. Celebrations of scholastic journeys with music, dancing, food and drinks happen around many campuses, in settings where too often underage drinking occurs and consequences follow. The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office reported 36 alcohol-related crashes in Oklahoma City where the age of the driver was between the ages of 16-19 in 2013. This is where things get less amusing and far more serious for a student, parent, friend and the host of the party.
Recently, Edmond Police arrested nearly a dozen “social hosts” in one weekend for holding parties where alcohol was provided to underage party goers. Implementing Oklahoma’s Social Host law, they held individuals who provided the location of the party responsible for underage alcohol consumption. Offenders face fines that increase substantially with additional violations, three violations results in a felony conviction of up to 5 years in prison plus fines. The penalties and liability increase if injury or fatality occurs as a result of drinking. Hosting a back-to-school party where both minors and alcohol is present is too great of a risk to take. It is likely to result in costs that are immeasurable: scholarships, relationships, jobs, reputation, life.
It will take the collaborative efforts of local law enforcement, local agencies, communities and individuals to reduce underage drinking. If you are aware of social gatherings or parties where people 20 and under have access to alcohol, please contact your local law enforcement agency. For more information about the Social Host law visit http://www.oklahomasocialhost.com or contact a prevention specialist of Eagle Ridge Institute at 405-840-1359.