The Responsible Parent
How To Talk To Your Kids About Alcohol And The Law.


Doing the right thing.

It's not easy being a parent, and when it comes to alcohol, the job gets even tougher as your child gets older. How should the subject of beer, wine and liquor be approached in discussions with your kids, escpecially those getting ready to leave high school? The first step is to know the laws in Pennsylvania, including the penalties for underage drinking. The second step is to discourage alcohol use by those under 21.

* Kids who use alcohol are more likely to have drinking problems later in life.

* It's a crime to sell or give alcoholic beverages to anyone under 21 - even your own kids. Penalties include a fine of $1000 for the first minor, $2500 for every other minor, and up to a year in jail. If you were to host a party in your home where any alcoholic was served to ten of your kid's underage friends, for example, you could receive a $23,500 fine and face up to a year in jail.

* Minors convicted of attempting to purchase, purchasing, transporting or possessing alcohol, lying about their age or carrying a false I.D. card to obtain alcohol will lose their driver's license for 90 days and face fines of up to $500 plus court costs. For youth under 16 or without a driver's license these penalties go into effect when the minor applies for a learner's permit.

* Anyone under the age of 21 driving with a blood alcohol content of .02 or higher can be charged with DUI according to the Pennsylvania Zero Tolerance Law. This law provides penalties for persons under 21 driving with any alcohol in their system. Drinking drivers over age 18 face a fine of up to $5000, a one year license suspension, 48 hours in jail and attendance at a mandatory alcohol highway safety course.

What the law means.

Serving alcohol to minors or driving under the influence of alcohol, at any age, are serious crimes that cause injury and death. Over 50% of all teenage drivers who die in car crashes have alcohol in their blood. Many of them fail to use seat belts. Teen drivers who drink are in more crashes than any other age group.

Everyone wants their children to grow up to become responsible adults. That means making sure adults and adolescents take alcohol and driving very, very seriously.

Some 1995 fatality statistics involving driving and alcohol in Pennsylvania:

* BAC .01 to .09 - 83 deaths.
* BAC .10 to .14 - 77 deaths.
* BAC .15 to .19 - 88 deaths.
* BAC .20 to .24 - 75 deaths.
* BAC .25 to .29 - 32 deaths.
* BAC .30 and up - 25 deaths.

What parents can do.

Strong foundations are built in childhood. Many things parents do show kids how to become responsible adults.

* Talk to your kids about alcohol and the law.

* Know about the effects of alcohol on a teenager's body so you explain why you want them to wait until after age 21 to decide whether or not to drink alcohol.

* Know your child's friends. Get to know their parents. Talk to them about your rules with your child. If all parents set the same curfews and have similar rules, one adolescent is not singled out for teasing.

* Establish limits and stick to them. Set curfews. Say "no" when necessary and don't apologize for it. Trust your decision - kids want and need to know what their limits are.

* It's important for kids to know you'll be awake, waiting to talk with them when they return home.

* Set a good example. If you drink as soon as you come in the door from work, take medication with alcohol or drive after you have had a drink, you can expect your child to do the same thing. Remember your kids do as you do.

* Plan alcohol-free parties with your teen. Make sure it is understood that you will be home and available if there is a problem. If they're going to a party at someone else's house, call those parents and confirm the invitation. Make sure they are as responsible as you. Ask if parents plan to supervise the party or if alcohol is permitted. If the party is not supervised, chances are alcohol will be present. Decline the invitation, if necessary.

* Give kids the information then need to know to do the right thing. Talk to them about how to refuse alcohol or refuse a ride with an impaired driver without looking like a wimp. Encourage them to be the non-drinking designated driver wherever they go.

* Set examples for your child to follow. Be a good role model.

Sign Safety Agreements.

Discuss and sign safety agreements outlining the rules to be followed, both parents and children, in order to become more responsible individuals. Explain that you will follow the same rules you expect of your child. Signing these together shows mutual respect, trust and love.

Examples of Safety Agreements:

Teenager

I agree to take actions to keep safe. I will always use my seat belt, and I will not use alcohol or drugs. I will find another ride or call you rather than ever ride with a drinking or drug-taking driver. If I ride a motorcycle, I promise that I will wear a helmet. I recognize that you care about what happens to me, and I will keep this agreement.....Signed.....

Parent

I agree to take actions to keep safe. I will always use my seat belt. If I choose to drink, I will not drive myself and I will only ride with a sober driver. I will find another ride or call you rather than ever ride with a drinking or drug-taking driver. If I ride a motorcycle, I promise that I will wear a helmet. I recognize that you care about me and I will keep this agreement.

For more Information:

Please call 1-800-453-PLCB or 1-800-227-2358.
Information provided by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

<District Justices> <> <Brookline History>