Youth alcohol abuse challenges our community

Our View
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The youth drinking problem in the greater Auburn area is out of control. There is some good news and bad news that goes along with this fact. The good news is that local school, law enforcement and recreation officials recognize the danger of binge drinking and drunken driving and are actively trying to combat the community problem. On Tuesday Bowman School was the site of a teen panel town hall meeting on teens and alcohol. The Placer Youth Commission and Coalition for Placer Youth-sponsored program gave local teens a chance to tell parents why drinking is so prevalent among their peers. Derek Ikeda, a Placer High sophomore, led the program. Ikeda said he is committed to staying away from alcohol at least until he’s 21. That’s a brave thing to do in a community where teen drinking is commonplace. Sheriff Ed Bonner told parents who attended to set a good example. “These kids are looking at us,” Bonner said. “We have to be role models.” On the downside are some grim statistics. According to a California Healthy Kids survey of Placer County youth, 49 percent, roughly half, of all Placer County high school seniors reported drinking alcohol in the last month. Sixty-three percent of Placer County teens who admitted to drinking say they got the alcohol from their own parents’ or friends’ parents’ homes. The pages of the Auburn Journal too often contain horror stories about young people who have consumed excessive alcohol and driven with disastrous results. Today’s front page reveals that Christopher Dann, a 21-year-old college student from a good Auburn family, had a .20 blood-alcohol level when he was killed Dec. 29 driving the wrong way on Interstate 80 near Newcastle. Dann’s accident also took the life of Jessica Ann Faber, 18, of Huntington Beach and seriously impacted the life of Gregory Wessels, 23, who suffered burns and major injuries. There were at least two other local vehicle accidents reported in the Journal this week involving young people allegedly under the influence of alcohol. So, what can you do to help prevent local youth from alcohol abuse? First, talk with teenagers about the deadly consequences of binge drinking and drinking and driving. Listen to their concerns and hear about what pressures they feel. Offer advice in a constructive, helpful manner. Although it might be very tempting to be the “cool” parents, who drink with their kids and their friends, it’s not very cool attending their funeral services. When misused, alcohol can be deadly, just like a gun. Many would rightfully lock up guns and ammunition in a safe. Take precautions with your prescription drugs and alcohol in homes where teens have access, as well. Offer alternatives. Teens with nothing to do too often find trouble. Whether it’s sports, outdoor or indoor recreation, music, theater, church youth groups, public service or myriad other opportunities, engage our teens in foothills life. Actively praise and reward positive behavior. Offer suggestions. Give of your time and attention. Programs like Tuesday’s teen panel and Every 15 Minutes, a California Highway Patrol anti-drunken driving campaign, show how many in our community are actively trying to stop needless deaths. These programs deserve our praise and support. In spite of all the positive efforts, teen drinking remains a huge problem in the Auburn-area foothills. Shining a light on alcohol abuse and offering alternatives to drinking can help. It’s up to each of us to set a positive example and be part of the solution.