Driving home the risks of teen drinking parties

Rumford Police Chief Stacy Carter recently told a Sun Journal reporter that some parents still consider drinking parties a rite of passage for young people.

We wonder how many still think so after the early Saturday morning accident that killed two young people and injured two others.

Rebecca Mason, a 16-year-old sophomore at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, and Logan Dam, 19, a former student there, were killed when a car operated by another teenager left the road and flew roof-first into a stand of trees.

The two teens were in the back seat of a car operated by Kristina Lowe, 18, who police say had been drinking at a nearby home and was sending a text message while driving.

Another passenger in the car, Jacob Skaff, 22, was also injured in the crash.

If teen drinking is a rite of passage, it is a rite that isn’t complete without caskets and graveside services.

And that is exactly the point of an elaborate program that Chief Carter, emergency responders and Mountain Valley High School are undertaking to make sure parents and students cannot miss the dangers of drinking and driving.

The national program is called “Every 15 Minutes,” reflecting the fact that every quarter-hour in this country someone dies in an alcohol-related traffic accident.

In May, 25 local high school students and their parents will participate in what seems like a shockingly painful bit of theater.

Each student’s parents will be notified by police or clergy that their son or daughter has been killed in an alcohol-related traffic accident.

The volunteer parents and their “living dead” student will then go through the emotional trauma of writing obituaries, attending a funeral and other gut-wrenching events that follow such tragedies.

“This is a powerful program that affects students and the community,” Carter said. “I hear too much that some parents believe it’s a rite of passage, that it’s OK. It’s not.”

Carter expects to get some complaints about the program, but he thinks the benefits will be worth offending a few people.

“It is dramatic, but it’s our best way to get the community talking,” he said. “These kids will talk about it. The community will be abuzz. If that’s what it takes to change the culture, I think we need that.”

Right now, that buzz should be all too real in Western Maine.

Police say the driver in Saturday’s crash was at a party at a home in West Paris. After the accident, she was able to walk back to that party, where she was later found by police and an ambulance crew.

If any adults supplied the alcohol these teens were drinking, or allowed this party to occur, we hope they spend a long time behind bars contemplating their roles in these deaths.

Let’s spread that “buzz” to anyone who condones or hosts these parties.

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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Comments

Steve  Dosh's picture

Driving home the risks of teen drinking parties

ƒriday the 13 th
†hink and drive <3 Don't become a statistic . . . ...•
Moms Against Drunk Dads
http://www.madd.org/

Steve  Dosh's picture

. . Drink responsibly

. . Drink responsibly 12.01.13
http://www.sunjournal.com/city/story/852431
h t h Dr. Dosh , Bates '78

ERNEST LABBE's picture

This drinking

This drinking party was not a the residence or parent. When our teenages (we had 5 teens at about the same ages due to hers and mine) we always knew where our kids were. How did this happen? We always had a house full of kids. Ours and a ton of friends. There was no drinking or drugs just kids being kids and having fun. this continued into their early twenties. We were mom or dad to a big bunch of young adults. Did it cost some to keep this bunch full of soda or snacks. Of course it did. Was it worth it? You bet your bippy it was. OH OH just gave away my age.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I'm sorry, but I don't see any end to it.

Teens lack the ability to fore thought. That has been scientifically proven.
We've been trying things for forty years that I know of to scare teens to stop this behavior.
When I was in highschool I drove a towtruck for the local police down south of here. Every year around prom time and graduation we would tow seriosly damaged cars and just leave them on the frount lawns of highschools. I know what the message was,but you have to remember teens are invincible.
Back then we didn't have the jaws of life. So when someone needed to be extricated from a mangled car we got the call with our tow trucks. Prom nights were particually busy, and alot of them were kids I new from school.
We had the demonstrations and the shock of the mangled car out frount, but I really don't think many if any will get the message. I'm talking thirty eight years ago, how many proms have been destroyed in all those years. Its not from lack of trying to end the carnage.

Jason Theriault's picture

The politics of alcohol is stupid

Kids are going to do stupid things. I don’t care how much you try to protect them, they will do stupid things. Make alcohol hard to get, and kids will just do something else. Whippits, cough syrup, huffing, kids will find a way to kill brain cells.

This is why the politics of alcohol are stupid. Instead of making the alcohol hard to get, we need to put our efforts into prevent the drinking and driving. But that wont work in our society. It’s far easier to blame and punish than to actually take steps to prevent deaths.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You can't prevent the

You can't prevent the invevitable, which is, "Make alcohol hard to get, and kids will just do something else", as you so aptly put it. Bottom line: kids will drink illegally and kids will drive while drunk; and, kids will die young. No laws are going to change that. Why? Because, as you state above, "Kids are going to do stupid things". Amen; it's part of being kids. Those who survive it, often become responsible adults. Those who don't, become memories for the survivors. That's life.

Bob Woodbury's picture

Just the cost...

...of doing business. Is that right?

Jason Theriault's picture

Well, we have taken the wrong tact

Kids will drink, I'll give you that. But kids only drink and drive because they need to get somewhere. The goal isn't to drink and drive. I would almost rather have parent be able to host a party with kids getting wasted just so they could keep an eye on it.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Talk to the guy who provided

Talk to the guy who provided the venue and/or the alcohol for the party that was ultimately responsible for the deaths of the two kids who died at the hands of the drunk 18 year old driver. Ask him how that's all working out for him.

Jen Holmes's picture

I disagree

Kids will drink, but parents allowing their kids to drink is not going to solve that problem. First of all as a parent, I would not want the responsibility that comes with trying to keep a bunch of drunk teenagers under control and out of a vehicle.

Jason Theriault's picture

Learning to drink

But thats the problem - kids have to learn to drink on their own. We don't just say "Ok son, your 21 now, you can drive now."

The other part of it is that when I was a kid and I drank underage, the thinking was "I'm already in deep doo doo if I get caught, so laws be damned."

Now here is the part that it's kinda weird to wrap your head around, but is interesting.

If drinking(even getting completely drunk) wasn't illegal, would parents punish it? Instead of kids driving to a party, parents could pick them up, eliminating the driving aspect entirely.

I'm not saying this is the solution, or even a good idea, but clearly the current path isn't working.

Bob Woodbury's picture

You say...

...kids have to learn to drink on their own. Why?

Jason Theriault's picture

they don't have to

They don't have to learn on their own, they just do. Because we drew a line in the sand at 21 for some reason, which is a silly number because most kids will drink before then. And there is alot of fear mongering about alcohol use in teens, but the fact of the matter is in Europe, the drinking age is 16 in most places, and the only defect I can see with them is an unhealthy fondness for soccer.

Bob Woodbury's picture

It seems...

...learning on their own gets them killed. I don't suppose parents have any responsibility in this. Naw. They're too busy with their own drinking to bother with their kids. The kids will take care of it. Drinking is the most important thing a person can do. They even spend thousands of dollars to go to college to learn how to drink.

Jason Theriault's picture

Actually

It's usually not the drinking that gets em killed, it's the driving afterwards.

And I know my parents tried to stop me, but ti's hard to stop a teen who has it in their mind to do dumb things, so I don't like putting this all on the parents.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

That's just it, Jason.

That's just it, Jason. Nothing will work until kids 'get it'. They haven't gotten it for 100 years. Unfortunately, until the attitudes of kids towards drinking and driving change, nothing else will. As parents, we can only teach them with guidance, words, and example; then grab our ankles and pray.

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