The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board presented a program Friday to students at Valley High School designed to discourage underage drinking.
Entitled “Under Age-Under Arrest,” the program was created in 2013, and has been presented at schools across the state.
“Underage drinking is a major problem in Alabama,” said Dean Argo, Government Relations Manager for the ABC Board. “Approximately 75 percent of high school seniors have admittedly consumed alcohol, and one-third of those are currently binge drinking.”
According to Argo, a recent study showed that 65 percent of underage drinkers get their alcohol from family and friends, and more than 80 percent of the alcohol consumed by minors is done within their own home or the homes of friends.
“Each year, about 5,000 people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking. That is almost the entire population of Valley, Alabama,” Argo told students. “These include deaths from drunk driving, other accidents, homicides, suicides and alcohol poisoning.”
Students were shown examples of young people their age who lost their lives due to alcohol-related incidents. In some cases, the victims didn’t actually consume alcohol but got into a vehicle driven by someone who was knowingly impaired.
“Decisions made at this juncture in your life will affect you forever,” said Argo. “That’s why it’s important to make the right decisions. Don’t make the mistake of saying it will never happen to me.”
Valley Police Chief Tommy Weldon also encouraged students to always drive defensively when operating a motor vehicle.
“It’s your responsibility to take care of yourself and watch out for others. When you’re driving on the road, be alert to dangers that may approach you,” said Weldon. “Each of you are precious, and we care about you. That’s why we’re here today.”
Valley High School Principal Sherry Ashe said she heard about the program this past summer and knew it would be beneficial to her students.
“Alcohol impacts our student body every day. We hear it from them about what goes on in their personal lives away from school,” said Ashe. “We want all our students to finish high school and become productive citizens. Hopefully, programs like this will help them stay on track.”
“We don’t expect to change the lives of everyone who attended this program,” added Chambers County School Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge. “However, if it helps just one student, then it was worth the effort.”The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board partners its education effort with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and local law enforcement agencies across the state. The agency has presented more than 40 programs since the beginning of the current school year.
All students who attended Friday’s presentation were asked to sign a pledge card committing to remain alcohol free until they reach the legal drinking age of 21