Local News

Authorities Step Up Fight Against Underage Drinking At Celebrations

Posted May 4, 2006 10:51 a.m. EDT

— Because of prom and graduation celebrations, law enforcement agents are especially focused this time of year on preventing underage drinking and driving.

"At one point we all as teenagers thought we were invincible, and they're going through that phase in life," said North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement agent Alan Fields.

The state has 12 billboards with the jarring image of a body bag at the morgue designed to make teens think. Arrests like that of Harnett Couny mom Janita Brown -- who was busted for hosting a post-prom party for dozens of teenagers with alcohol -- may get attention, but Fields says sometimes it takes a tragedy to send a message.

"Unfortunately for many, tragedy is a wake-up call that many people need," he said.

No high school student body knows that lesson better than Wakefield High School. Four students died in a crash in March which involved underage drinking.

In the aftermath, Wakefield High students hosted a mock driving disaster leading up to prom and the Wake County Sheriff's Office invited high school students to watch a DWI checkpoint.

So whether it is an image, an arrest or a lesson in how DWI enforcement works, a lot of forces are working to get the message gets across.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says North Carolina high school students abuse alcohol less than other teenagers across the country. Just under 21 percent of local students said they had five or more drinks of alcohol in a row over the past 30 days. The national average was just under 30 percent.

In addition, 9 percent of North Carolina students said they drove after drinking sometime in the last 30 days. That compares with 13 percent nationally.