Guest opinion: Legislature needs to give counties authority to curb underage drinking

2010-12-06T00:05:00Z 2010-12-30T09:45:54Z Guest opinion: Legislature needs to give counties authority to curb underage drinking

By ASHELI HUCKABA

The Billings Gazette
December 06, 2010 12:05 am  • 

Albert Einstein defined the word insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” A group of my classmates and I believe in order to combat DUI and underage drinking problems in Montana, the approach to these issues has to change for us to see a real difference.

This was the reasoning for founding REALITY check: Raise Expectations and Acknowledge the Legacy Impacting Today's Youth. Nine fellow high school seniors and I recognize that for things to change as we travel Montana's roadways it is time for us to stand up and ask our legislators to make changes in DUI and underage drinking laws. We realize scare tactics and education alone is not enough to change the alcohol culture in our state. We want meaningful consequences and a multi-pronged approach to the problems plaguing our state at epidemic levels. It is up to us to help make a difference for our generation, the generations before us and the generations to come.

Social host ordinance

One approach that we believe will make a real difference, and set a new standard of acceptable behavior, is the social host ordinance. Several large communities in Montana, such as Billings, Great Falls and Helena, have passed a social host ordinance. While this is commendable, areas such as Jefferson County need the ability to pass such an ordinance at the county level. A social host ordinance in the small towns of Boulder and Whitehall will make little difference, as the majority of people live outside of town. For the county to enact such an ordinance, legislative action is needed.

What is a social host ordinance? Instead of law enforcement having to prove someone gave a minor alcohol, under such an ordinance, they would only need to prove someone gave minors a place to drink.

Well-intentioned adults are allowing youth to drink in their homes because they believe “kids will be kids” or “they're going to do it anyway, so why not take the keys and let them do it safely”.

Mixed drinking messages

Kids are getting the message that it is OK to drink and they are consuming large quantities of alcohol. Parents are assuming that if they provide the kids a place to drink, they won't drink and drive any other time they drink. These parents also assume the only danger of underage drinking is drinking and driving. A social host ordinance would be a rude awakening to the adults who supply youth with alcohol, therefore making it more difficult for minors to get alcohol.

As teens, we recognize Montana's problems with alcohol abuse will not be solved without strengthening our laws. Our generation is a testament to how alcohol education alone is not changing behavior. We owe ourselves smart decisions about alcohol to keep our bodies healthy. We owe it to our families, friends, teachers, neighbors and every person we encounter on Montana's roads. At the same time, we need to protect ourselves from those who aren't making smart choices, and are endangering our right to travel safely on Montana's roads.

Asheli Huckaba is a member of REALITY check (Raise Expectations and Acknowledge the Legacy Impacting Today's Youth) and a Whitehall High School senior.

Asheli Huckaba is a member of REALITY check (Raise Expectations and Acknowledge the Legacy Impacting Today's Youth) and a Whitehall High School senior.

 

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