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This is without a doubt one of the busiest seasons of the year, and it’s easy to be caught up in the frenzy of the moment. But it’s also important to be aware that along with holiday cheer and bustle comes some life-threatening risks and dangerous behaviors, particularly for our youth.
The average American sees a 100 percent increase in their alcoholic drinking during the holidays. This is a drastic jump that leads to serious law enforcement and public safety problems. Eggnog, mulled wine, and champagne toasts may seem fun and innocent enough, but they also lead to more driving under the influence and increased risk of road injury and death.
Hundreds of lives are lost each holiday season as a result of drunk driving. In the one week between Christmas and New Year’s, 300 people die each year in drunk driving crashes. Put another way, drunk drivers play a role in 40 percent of traffic deaths during this week.
Even more troubling, youth are among the most at risk. Alcohol is the most commonly used substance among youth, and minors are even more likely to face dangerous choices during the holidays. The holidays, a time for friends and family to come together, are unfortunately also a time for activities that can put minors at risk.
Most underage drinkers get alcohol from parties and other social settings; often these parties are at the homes of family or friends. While many adults have the wrong perception that drinking at home is safer than doing it elsewhere, the house party has been found to be one of the highest-risk environments for underage drinking.
San Antonio has taken action to combat underage drinking and reduce the risks presented at house parties. In fact, as one of only three Texas cities to do so, San Antonio is an exemplary statewide leader on the issue. Under our social host ordinance, which was passed unanimously and went into effect in 2017, adults are liable for underage drinking on their property and/or for providing alcohol to minors. While Texas has a strong statewide law on the books that classifies giving minors alcohol as a misdemeanor, our local civil ordinance gives law enforcement a powerful and proven tool for cracking down on underage drinking. Under this local law, property owners can be fined up to $500 for violations and can be ordered to pay the City for fire, EMS, and police responses at reported incidents.
In short, we’re holding adults accountable and saving young lives. And research indicates that social host laws are among the most effective and recommended ways to reduce dangerous underage drinking.
Parents and other adults must be aware that they can – and will – be held accountable for protecting our youth. In addition, as San Antonians open their doors to family and friends or come together on New Year’s Eve, they may also consider the following:
- Resist the pressure or presumption to drink alcohol at every social setting. Alcohol is not a requirement for holiday cheer.
- Offer nonalcoholic beverages, creating a welcoming opportunity for guests to not drink. Alcoholic drinks shouldn’t be the only option.
- Do not leave unsupervised alcohol accessible to underage guests.
- Get all the information about any events your children are attending, including if there will be parental supervision and making sure no alcohol will be served.
- Keep alcohol in a secure location, preferably locked, when not out for an event.
- Have an open line of communication with your youth. Let them know what to expect and how to make the best decision.
- Do not relax your rules during the holidays. It will be hard to return to previous expectations.
New Year’s Eve can be fun, memorable, and celebratory without alcohol. It’s important to take care and be safe. And when deciding to drink, it should be done responsibly and within the law. The numbers are sobering, and we don’t want to see one more victim this holiday season – least of all a child.