As juniors and seniors prepare for their “big night” at prom, Imperial Beach authorities—from school administrators, parents, to police and sheriff’s deputies—aim to make this season as safe as possible by enforcing alcohol laws and policies.
According to the state Office of Traffic Safety, there were 13 deaths and 1,729 injuries in California in 2011 involving 15-20 year old drivers who had been drinking. That same year, more than 12,000 people under the age of 21 visited an Emergency Department in California because of alcohol poisoning.
In San Diego County there were 49 deaths among youth ages 14-20 with a mention of alcohol, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner. In 2011, males experienced 3 times as much fatal alcohol-related incidents as females.
Sheriff's Deputies work hard to prevent alcohol abuse throughout the year. But since prom has become synonymous with underage drinking, they become extra vigilant during this time, looking for signs of driving under the influence, social host violations, and other alcohol related offenses.
Social host laws make it illegal for anyone to host an underage drinking party, or any gathering where minors consume alcohol. To avoid breaking those laws, only buy enough alcohol for your party needs and keep track of it. The host should also closely supervise those under age 21 to be sure they are not drinking.
Deputy Tiffany Townsend, Mar Vista High Resource Officer, has more advice to offer. “We encourage families, schools and people in the community to speak with the teenagers in their lives about the dangers of underage alcohol consumption; not just the legal consequences of underage drinking but of the physical and social dangers associated with underage drinking,” she said
Emilio Gallegos, South Bay Youth 4 Change member agrees. “Saving lives is saving our future,” he said. “Don’t let friends under 21 drink alcohol. We all have to be responsible and report underage drinking,”
Of particular concern around prom time are DUIs and alcohol poisonings among prom attendees. Other problems related to binge and underage drinking includes scholastic problems, personal injury, sexual assault, unintended sex, and unwanted pregnancies. Community problems related to binge and underage drinking include car crashes, vandalism, crime, fights, drain on public services and lost public tax revenues.
Research shows alcohol related problems cost Californians $38 billion each year. That’s about $1,000 per California resident or about $3,000 per family each year according to a 2008 report released by the Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems (known as Alcohol Justice).
By prohibiting anyone from providing a place where those under 21 have access to alcohol—be it a home, hotel room or limousine – the Social Host Ordinance can be helpful in reducing those costs. Under the revised law approved by the Imperial Beach City Council, adults hosting parties now have to check the ages of their guests and control the availability of alcohol.The list of those who could be held responsible for a violation has also expanded to more than just the home owner. Anyone who hosts the party is now liable for prosecution under the law.
—South Bay Community Change Project