High school prom season is upon us, the Michigan State Police is advising students to make smart decisions and take extra precaution to stay safe while celebrating.
"Prom is an exciting time for high school students and we want to encourage teens to have fun by making good choices," said Community Service Trooper Geno Basanese of the Iron Mountain Post. "Students should know the consequences of underage drinking. There are legal ramifications, but most importantly, you can get yourself or someone else seriously injured or killed."
Not only is it illegal for anyone under 21 to have alcohol in their system, but it is illegal for someone under 21 to have alcohol in their possession at any time, regardless of whether they've consumed any of it.
The consequences of underage drinking can be an arrest for Minor In Possession (MIP) or for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) if a teen chooses to drive, Trooper Basanese said.
Additionally, many employers, colleges and military recruiters take alcohol-related offenses into consideration when hiring or accepting applications.
Trooper Basanese offers some tips that can help keep prom night safe:
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
- Abstain from sexual activity.
- Don't drink and drive.
- Don't get into a car with an intoxicated driver.
- Wear a seat belt at all times while traveling in an automobile.
- If hiring a limo service, make sure the service is properly licensed with the state of Michigan.
- Watch out for your date and others around you.
- Get directions to the location of the prom or other gatherings.
- Keep parents or guardians informed of your whereabouts.
In Michigan, the consequences are severe for having "just one drink before driving."
The police will be tough on minors who have been drinking and driving.
Arrested teens may:
- Lose their license for 30 to 90 days.
- Pay up to $250 in fines.
- Perform up to 45 days of community service.
- Have four points added to their driving record.
- Pay as much as $4,000 in attorney fees.
- Be subjected to increased insurance, which can add up to three times the current auto insurance premium for a three year period.
In Wisconsin, drivers under 21 also must maintain absolute sobriety.
For drivers under age 21, Wisconsin Act 317 has increased the penalty to violating the absolute sobriety law to $375.
Violators also are assessed four demerit points on their driving records and have their license suspended for 90 days.
Those demerit points are especially painful when paying teen-age auto insurance rates.
Adults play key role in preventing underage drinking.
Parents are a child's most influential teacher.
"Parents are encouraged to talk to their child about evening plans and know how to get in contact with him/her," Trooper Basanese said. "Parents should confirm details of parties with other adults, making sure alcohol will not be present at any gathering their child will be attending. Keep pertinent phone numbers and addresses on hand for any location their child is visiting and arrange for safe transportation."
Additionally, parents who choose to drink need to serve as positive role models by drinking sensibly and in moderation so that when their teenagers are of legal drinking age they know what is appropriate and responsible behavior.
When was the last time you talked to your kids about alcohol?
It isn't something that can simply be left to the schools or churches to handle.
It is only when parents take an active role in discouraging alcohol usage that real progress can be made.
And a bad example on the parents' part can undermine previously-learned lessons very quickly.