Authorities have a message for area teens and their parents as prepare for this year's graduation season.
They must have fun without alcohol.
Zero-tolerance law prohibits minors from drinking and driving - without exception.
Zero tolerance laws are the laws of the land in nearly every state in the nation. These laws make it illegal for people under 21 to drive with any measurable blood alcohol content.
Zero-tolerance laws are important because they help protect teens from traffic crashes.
One study shows that states with zero-tolerance laws reduced the number of single-vehicle nighttime fatal crashes involving young drivers by 16 percent, compared to a one percent increase in such crashes in states without zero tolerance.
"Graduation is an exciting time in the life of a young person," said Jen Steber, director of the Florence County Human Services. "We hope your child's celebration will be a safe and positive experience for everyone."
"If alcohol is provided at the graduation party, we want to remind you that Wisconsin law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from possessing or consuming alcohol unless under the direct supervision of their parent, legal guardian or spouse who has attained the legal drinking age," Steber said.
It should be noted here that parents may provide alcohol to their underage children in Wisconsin.
That law does not apply in Michigan. In Michigan, it is illegal for anyone underage to consume alcohol.
Alcohol also is a major factor in the three leading causes of death for youth, which include suicide, motor vehicle crashes, and homicide, and is linked to two-thirds of all sexual assaults and date rapes of teens as well as college students, said officials at Narconon of Oklahoma Inc.
Teens and adults face harsh penalties if underage drinking is a part of their graduation celebration.
"It's not OK to provide alcohol to anyone under 21 years of age," Steber said. "With the exception of your own child, adults cannot purchase, pour or provide alcohol to any underage individual, such as your child's friends, or knowingly permit them to consume or possess alcohol in your home or property under your control."
"Hosting a party and taking the keys may prevent drinking and driving, but it does not automatically prevent other unfortunate outcomes that may result when kids drink, such as falls, poisonings, risky behavior, unplanned pregnancy, or drowning," Steber said.
"If adults provide alcohol to persons under the age of 21, they are also subjecting themselves to the potential for very serious civil and criminal liability. Remember, your homeowners' insurance does not cover you for illegal activities," she said.
"Don't invite trouble into your home," Steber said. "For your own protection, we urge you to adopt a strict rule that no alcohol will be consumed by minors on your property, and we ask that you consider the safety of your child and their friends during graduation celebration by setting an example as a parent who obeys Wisconsin's laws."
Nearly one-third of youth under 21 killed in traffic crashes die in alcohol-related crashes during April, May, and June - prom and graduation seasons - the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports.
With graduation season rapidly approaching, parents must act now to keep their teens alcohol-free.
It is critical that parents engage their children in direct and factual conversation about the dangers of underage drinking early and often during this perilous time of year.
Here are some more ways adults can reinforce the message:
- Parents can set clear rules and expectations with their children that in their family it is not OK to drink before the age of 21.
- Teachers can set rules in their classrooms that talking about parties that occurred over the weekend and involved drinking is not allowed.
- Coaches can set clear standards that drinking by members of their team is not allowed, and enforce these standards consistently and without exception.