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House parties are not safe havens

Viewpoint

On a typical weekend, a high school senior tells a friend they are home alone for the night. Soon phones light up and everyone knows. On Friday night the door swings open and the party is exploding with alcohol. Hours later three seniors leave but only one makes it home. A sophomore needs more than medical attention after being sexually assaulted. A fight resulted in a broken window and busted hands. With summer upon us, now is the time to think about keeping our young people safe as they celebrate graduation and other milestones.

Alcohol is a commonly used substance among youth across the county and house parties are the most common place they drink it. While house parties are often perceived as harmless, our youth report that these parties lead to negative consequences, including physical fights, sexual assaults, alcohol poisoning, and drunk driving. Binge drinking at house parties is causing serious injury, trauma, and harm to our youth. Car accidents, sexual assaults, physical fights, and alcohol poisoning are some of the serious consequences experienced by our youth at these parties.

Over 400 youth in Maui County were surveyed and said they know a peer who has suffered major consequences from underage drinking at house parties:

• 46 percent of youth know a peer who has been in a physical fight after drinking at a house party.

• 33 percent know a peer who has been arrested after drinking at a house party.

• 29 percent know a peer who has been in a car accident after drinking at a house party.

• 18 percent know a peer who was sexually assaulted after drinking at a house party.

There is a common misconception that house parties create a safer environment for underage drinking, but our youth and police tell us otherwise. Youth report that these parties are often large, with 15 or more youth in attendance. Large parties lead to more binge drinking and more alcohol-related consequences. Drunk driving, car crashes, physical fights, and sexual assaults all result too often from underage drinking at house parties.

Adults surveyed within the community indicate they too believe underage drinking at house parties is a problem: 90 percent of adults surveyed do not want their children drinking in other people’s homes.

A growing body of research suggests a potential solution that could address our problem: a local social host ordinance. A social host ordinance is a law that deters underage drinking and related consequences by holding adults accountable (usually through fines) for underage drinking occurring at their homes or on their property. Right now, Maui County youth consume more alcohol and binge drink at higher rates compared to other counties in the state. Research shows social host ordinances reduce the number of large home parties where underage drinking occurs, which reduces binge drinking and the overall amount of alcohol that youth consume. Social host ordinances also give law enforcement a better tool to address underage drinking at house parties. They make it easier for police to intervene quickly before a large party gets out of hand, preventing our youth from getting hurt.

“As someone who has had my family decimated by the impact of underage drinking at house parties, a social host ordinance could have prevented the death of my son, and it could save the lives of other kids.” says Andrea Maniago, Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Underage drinking is leading to serious health and safety consequences for everyone in Maui County. A local social host ordinance would not only improve the public health and safety of the entire community, but it would especially improve the lives of our youth. There would be less underage drinking at parties, which would equal fewer incidents of teen sexual assaults, physical fights, drunk driving, alcohol-related ER visits and arrests.

House parties are not safe havens for underage drinking. A local social host ordinance would ultimately save the lives of our youth.

To learn more or to get involved find us on Facebook @MauiCoalitionforDrugFreeYouth or email Ashlee@hiphi.org.

* Ashlee Klemperer is Maui Coalition for Drug-Free Youth coordinator. Andrea Maniago of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is co-author.

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