The drinking season

The drinking season
We like to joke here in South Dakota about how two seasons always simultaneously visit us: Spring and construction.

Add a third. The drinking season.

It's the time of year, Clay County Deputy Dallas Schnack said, when young people celebrate and socialize. And often, alcohol is included.


The results can be deadly.

A Sioux Falls teenager was killed April 15 when the car she was driving crashed near Lennox. Her blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.

A 17-year-old Colman teenager died in a vehicle accident May 6 in Moody County. Two other teens were seriously injured. The highway patrol reported that alcohol use likely contributed to the accident.

Alcohol and excessive speed contributed to a car accident involving a teen near White River on May 15.

The driver had just graduated from White River High School the day before, and sustained serious injuries.

Authorities ironically stopped a second vehicle that drove by the accident scene and was dripping liquid.

Officers found two kegs of beer and another alcohol container in the automobile that was coming from an after-graduation beer party. The 20-year-old driver was ticketed.

Teenagers may well be on their way to becoming adults, but contrary to what we want to believe, their minds often don't work the same as that of a mature adult.

Teens often can think as logically as adults, but the process can be derailed easily by flaring emotions or other distractions. Kids take chances not because they're ignorant, Temple University psychologist Laurence Steinberg said, but "because other things undermine their better judgment."

Whether they like it or not, teens depend on their parents to fill in the gaps and supply some of that better judgment.

It's spring. Teens have already celebrated prom, and many are getting ready for graduation and the parties that will follow. It's a time of great exuberance and, unfortunately, increased peril. For much of that, blame parents. Or people who see nothing wrong in providing alcohol to minors.

The Sioux Falls girl who died got intoxicated at a house party in Tea. And, as mentioned above, a 20-year-old provided beer to some members of White River's class of 2006 shortly after graduation ceremonies.

Schnack and Clay County Sheriff Andy Howe said there have been several instances when parents simply seem oblivious to alcohol use by teens � even when it is literally going on in their own back yards.

Too many parents apparently are looking the other way when teens gather at their homes. They'll go to bed knowing that there's drinking going on in the basement or rec room or out in the barn.

Maybe they'll collect keys and try to keep the kids out of their cars. They may even patrol the perimeter, but it's hard for a parent to police a teenage party. Some parents, Schnack said, simply hope that their teens will make it home safely after a night of socializing.

The sad fact is that many times these parents not only aren't supervising but actually are providing booze for the teens. Some parents believe it's better for the kids to drink at home, keeping them off the roads. Some think it's harmless fun. Some just don't care.

They are wrong.

"They (parents who host parties) are enabling the young people, and teaching them a lesson that this is acceptable as long as the cops don't find out," Howe said. "So the kids are learning the wrong thing, and you aren't keeping them safe. You're endangering them. And you're hindering the kids' development as a responsible adult by teaching them to be irresponsible."

As graduation approaches, we encourage parents to do their children a favor. Be unpopular. Enforce no-alcohol rules. Push other parents to do the same.

Your teens may not thank you in the morning. Many will probably be angry.

Angry � and alive.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net

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