In 2013, there were 36 alcohol related car crashes in Oklahoma City where the driver was underage. Although the law forbids minors under the age of 21 to possess or purchase alcohol, youth continue to gain access to alcohol. Minors are cautioned to delay consuming alcohol until they are 21 because they react differently to it than adults due to their brains still developing. Teenagers get drunk twice as fast as adults, and although they drink less often than adults, when they so, they drink more (often binge drinking) because they do not recognize when to stop.2
Oklahoma County police officers are strengthening law enforcement on alcohol sales to minors by conducting Alcohol Compliance Checks. In conjunction with a local agency, law enforcement seeks to limit minors’ access to alcohol, by ensuring Oklahoma County merchants are abiding by the law and not selling alcohol to minors. By limiting youth’s access, we limit their use and are able to make our roads and communities safer from the dangers of underage drinking.
At the end of November, Oklahoma County Sherriff officers conducted a combine 30 visits to convenient stores, liquor stores and supermarkets under agreement with Eagle Ridge Institute. Two youth participants went out on each operation, and they were positively identified as 17, under the legal age of 21.
On November 22, 2014, out of the 16 visits, 4 illegal sales of beer or alcohol were made by a store clerk. 3 misdemeanor charges were filed and a felony charge of illegal selling of liquor to a minor were filed. On November 29, 2014, of the 14 visits, 3 illegal sales of beer were made by a store clerk. 3 misdemeanor “out-of-custody charges” were filed for Illegal sale of low-point beer to a minor. One of the sales was conducted by a minor store clerk.
During the holidays 2 to 3 times more people die in alcohol related crashes, and 40% of traffic fatalities involve a driver who is impaired by alcohol.3 This holiday season, we can lower these rates by reducing underage drinking and driving. If you know of a store selling alcohol to minors, please call an officer at (405) 869-2500 or contact a prevention specialist of Eagle Ridge Institute at (405) 463-7527, it will be confidential.
1Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, Crash Data Statistics, 2013.
2National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Statistics on Underage Drinking
3National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts, December 2007.