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Nothing Cool About Underage Drinking by Chief William G. Parent

Traditionally, underage drinking and driving are a serious problem during the Thanksgiving holiday period. This year, police throughout Somerset County will join forces in an attempt to reduce the dangers associated with teen drinking and driving. Although police will be on the lookout for all drinking drivers, their prime focus for this initiative is the 18-to-25 year age group.

EmPoWER Somerset coordinates Somerset’s initiative for Partying Safely (SIPS) and provided dedicated resources to put more officers on the street to address this serious problem. Past experience clearly shows that this age group is at the greatest risk for crashes or other mishaps when they abuse partying by drinking alcoholic beverages or consuming illegal drugs. The Courier News also has been helpful in promoting the program and producing the articles by EmPoWER Somerset.

This campaign will begin the night before Thanksgiving and end on the following Monday. Statistics show Thanksgiving-Eve is the deadliest night due to underage drinking, even more than graduation or prom night.  Many teens returning from college have the notion that drinking is a "rite of passage." While colleges do not condone underage drinking, they often do not provide pertinent information about the problem that could send the underlying message that drinking is OK. When these underage drinkers return home for the holiday, they want to share the same bond with their old friends.  They may feel many things, from making them more "adult-like" or "cool" and part of the "in" crowd. Parents must take the responsibility to talk to their underage children about the dangers and risks involved with the consumption of alcohol or illicit drugs. They should let their children know that they plan to check them for signs of alcohol use.

We urge community involvement with EmPoWER — citizens, parents, friends, neighbors or relatives — to play a proactive role in saving a life.  We need everyone to realize that no matter how an underage drinking party ends up, horrible consequences can follow. Teens face the danger of serious car crashes, alcohol poisoning and a lifetime of lost employment opportunities. If you learn of underage drinking or observe someone about to drive that is impaired, do the right thing and either put a stop to it or alert the local police. Your deed could save a life.

William G. Parenti is chief of police in North Plainfield.