Opinion: Let's all work to keep kids safe from dangers of underage drinking

With spring finally upon us, we want to take the time to talk about safe driving and underage drinking. At the end of each school year, more high school students get their driver’s license and begin to drive to school and to after-school activities. The Trumbull Police Department provides two officers in the morning and afternoon each school day to assist with traffic on Daniels Farm Road at Strobel Road and at the entrance to Hillcrest Middle School. Students, parents, faculty, buses and residents utilize this area to a great extent before and at the end of each school day.

Prom and graduation season is also upon us, and we all need to do our part to insure that our youth have memorable and safe celebrations. One way we can all work towards providing a safe environment for our children is to ensure that alcohol is not a part of these events. If you are hosting a post-prom or graduation party, take steps to ensure that no one under 21 is served alcohol or brings alcohol into your home.

In our community, we are proud of the collaboration between the Trumbull Police Department and the Trumbull Partnership Against Underage Drinking & Drugs (TPAUD), a community coalition dedicated to reducing youth alcohol and drug abuse in town. In 2014, TPAUD received a five-year federal grant which will enable it to continue its focus on education and outreach, as well as supporting law enforcement efforts.

April is “Alcohol Awareness Month” and we are pleased to announce that TPAUD will be launching its new website, tpaud.org. This site will provide resources and information for parents, community members, and teens looking for real-world help for this very real issue. TPAUD also offers parent e-blasts with regular information about the latest alcohol and drug trends and brings information directly to community groups, PTAs, places of worship, and schools.

Through our partnership, TPAUD has worked to support the Trumbull Police Department in the enforcement of Connecticut’s underage drinking laws. Police officers have been trained in techniques to safely disperse underage drinking parties. The police department also conducts regular “Party Patrols” so extra officers can patrol areas of town and specific events to prevent underage drinking. In conjunction with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, the department has also conducted compliance checks at local liquor stores, restaurants, and bars to ensure that alcohol is not sold to anyone under the age of 21.

The Trumbull Police Department and TPAUD can take many steps to prevent underage drinking, but the most powerful ally we have is parents in town. Again and again, studies show that parents have significant influence over whether or not their children consume alcohol — even more than peers or the media. In Trumbull, teens who know their parents disapprove of underage drinking were more than three times less likely to drink than others. It is never too early to start the conversation about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking and we urge every parent to have this conversation with their children as soon and as often as possible.

It is also crucial that parents have ongoing conversations with their teens about safe driving. In 2011, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration reported that motor vehicle crashes were the No. 1 killer of teens in America — 2,105 teen drivers were involved in fatal car crashes that year. Almost half of those killed were the drivers themselves, and thirty-five percent of those crashed involved excessive speed. Furthermore, more than half of the drivers were unrestrained at the time. Most fatal accidents involving teens occur between 3 and 8 p.m. and remain elevated until midnight. In 2011, more than 500 people died nationwide in which drivers 14-18 years of age had alcohol in their systems, in spite of the fact that every state has Zero Tolerance Laws for those under the age of 21.

The Trumbull Police Department is here to provide quality, professional police services to the entire community, and will continue to work alongside TPAUD to keep our kids free from alcohol and other drugs. We ask every parent to speak with their children about safe driving habits, as well as the risks and dangers of alcohol. Our children are our most precious commodity. Let’s all work to provide them with a safe and healthy environment.

Police Chief Michael Lombardo, Melissa McGarry and Vicki Tesoro of TPAUD