By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Teens face zero tolerance
Think before you drink homecoming night
Placeholder Image
Fall ushers in football season, and with football comes one of the biggest high school events of the year — homecoming, and often the decision whether to drink alcohol. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 110 youth ages 15-20 were killed as a result of underage drinking and driving during homecoming weekends in 2005.
Even though young drivers only comprise 6.3 percent of the total driving population in the United States, they constituted 12.6 percent of the drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2005, according to NHTSA. In preparation for one of the biggest social events of the year, teens must be armed with more than lip gloss and cell phones; they must be aware of potential pressures to drink alcohol or ride in a car with a drunk driver.
From picking out what to wear to dinner to post-homecoming parties, homecoming can be exciting for any teenager. However, a night that is supposed to be filled with socializing, dancing and laughter can quickly turn devastating if alcohol is involved. There is no doubt that teens are offered drinks or rides from their peers who have been drinking. Saying no can be tough, especially if they’re not expecting pressure from others. Sometimes, a simple “No thanks” works well, but here are some other tips from the Traffic Safe Communities Network that parents can use to teach their teen to say no to drinking:
√ Say “No thanks:” “I’m driving tonight,” or “I’m the designated driver” or “It’s a bad combination with the medicine I’m taking.”
√ Blame a parent: “My parents would ground me for life if they knew I was drinking!”
√ Remember your goals: “No way! I want to make the team,” or “I have a game/practice tomorrow” or “Not for me, I have to work tomorrow morning.”
√ Hold a cup filled with soda, water or juice to help avoid peer pressure.
√ Walk away: You don’t have to say anything.
Teens also must be aware of the consequences if they decide to drink and drive. The alarmingly high rates of teens drinking and driving have led states to adopt zero tolerance laws to send a message about underage drinking and reducing teen driving fatalities. Since teens cannot legally drink alcohol, all states have enacted zero tolerance laws that make it illegal for drivers under 21 to drive after consuming any alcohol. In fact, less than one-half of a beer would put most teens over the legal limit. Anyone under 21 who drives with alcohol in his/her system will face license suspension or revocation for one to three years.
The decision to drink and drive is more than deciding to look cool in front of friends; it is a matter of life and death. So when your teen is getting ready for homecoming, remind them they can say no and enjoy a lifetime of fun events. For more information on teen drinking and driving, visit the NHTSA website at

Houry is an assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Management at Emory University
Sign up for our e-newsletters