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Teens: Don’t drink; Parents: Be parents

Staff Report • Apr 30, 2012 at 8:29 AM

This is a time of the year when the thoughts of many high-schoolers turn to rented limousines, tuxedos and elegant evening dresses. Prom season is also a time when law enforcement agencies step up their efforts to warn teenagers of the dangers of underage drinking.

Seniors from four high schools in Carter County were recently given a sobering look at what can happen when teenagers drink and drive on prom night. As Elizabethton Bureau Chief John Thompson reported earlier this month, officials from the Carter County Sheriff’s Department staged a drunken driving accident for students in the football stadium at Hampton High School.

The mock crash scene was a realistic one, and so were the consequences. In the scenario, one girl going to her prom was killed, two other students were badly injured and the teenage driver of the wrecked car was arrested on drunken driving charges.

After the assembly, Sheriff Chris Mathes asked seniors to sign pledges to “not use alcohol” on prom night. In return for their promises, Mathes vowed to allow students to shave his head if there are no student-related DUIs or accidents in Carter County on prom night. We hope to see Mathes bald next month.

Drinking and driving is a bad combination regardless of the perpetrator’s age. Sadly though, too many prom night celebrations have been ruined over the years by a drunken teenager behind the wheel.

But it’s not just drinking and driving that can spoil prom night. Underage drinking is illegal and has many consequences that not only include possible death and injury on the highway, but also death and injury from alcohol poisoning or violence. Drinking under the age of 21 is against the law in this state. Period.

We know that doesn’t stop some teenagers and young adults from doing it any way. That’s no surprise. We chalk it up to the exuberance and foolishness of youth. What does surprise us, however, is when we hear of adults — parents, in some cases — who aid and abet in such illegal activity.

Parents should never allow underage drinking in their homes. It simply sends the wrong message. Recent studies have found that 57 percent of high school teens whose parents allow them to drink at home, even just on special occasions, say they drink with their friends, as compared to just 14 percent of teens who say their parents never allow them to drink.

As we’ve said in this space before, parents need to be parents to their teenagers — not party pals. That’s especially true during prom season.

We support aggressive law enforcement efforts to hold parents and other adults accountable for underage drinking. Parents are supposed to be old enough to know better.

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