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Our view: Curbing teen drinking

Published: Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

The number of underage drinking citations issued across McHenry County might have decreased, but that doesn’t mean the effort to fight underage drinking should.

Fewer people getting caught doesn’t necessarily mean fewer teens are abusing alcohol. It’s a positive sign, however.

Five McHenry County communities have seen a 32 percent decrease in citations issued for either underage consumption or possession of alcohol between 2008 and 2012.

Crystal Lake, Woodstock, McHenry, Huntley and Algonquin combined to issue 272 citations last year, down from 400 in 2008.

That’s a good sign, and it shows that collaborative efforts and programs across the county are not only making a difference in curbing underage drinking, but also helping give those who have been cited a second chance.

In Crystal Lake and Woodstock, for example, officers have at their disposal the opportunity to send offenders to administrative court instead of circuit court, helping keep convictions off a person’s record.

The Underage Drinking Task Force has been in existence since 2010. It focuses on education and enforcement.

Some schools in the county also have the discretion to punish students who are cited for underage drinking. In Crystal Lake-based School District 155, high school sophomores are required to take health class, which includes a unit dedicated to the dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol.

Many high schools also put on underage-drinking-awareness programs around prom season, going so far as to stage drunken-driving accidents.

First and foremost, it is parents who are responsible for educating their children on the dangers of underage drinking. Alcohol poisoning, drunken driving and sexual assault are some of the dangers society faces when alcohol is abused. Teenagers face an elevated risk of these dangers.

Parents also need to set the example for teenagers. Laws surrounding parents providing alcohol to minors have been strengthened.

But awareness and enforcement must continue to go beyond parenting. Local efforts such as administrative courts, task forces and school programs should remain as strong as ever despite the dip in citations.

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