Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission
Parents Don’t Know Underage Drinking Law, Penalties
Research conducted by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission indicates that parents of teens don’t know Texas’ underage drinking law, and therefore often break it unintentionally, and have no idea of the severity of the potential penalties.
“Parents play a critical role in the consumption of alcohol by teens,” said Administrator Alan Steen. “They determine whether their children will be allowed to consume alcohol and on what occasions, and whether they allow their children to host or attend parties at which alcohol might be available.”
Texas had 276 alcohol-related traffic fatalities among 15-20 year-olds in 2003 – more than any other state. In fact, 46% of all traffic fatalities in Texas involving this age group were alcohol-related.
“The consequences could have been far worse,” said Steen, who pointed to a 2002 survey of high school students conducted by the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse that indicated that 35% of Texas high school students—51% of all seniors—were current alcohol users.
“What was truly scary,” Steen continued, “was that a high proportion of the youngsters who admitted to current use also admitted that they drank heavily, consuming five or more drinks during drinking episodes and that they had driven while intoxicated or had ridden with a driver who was intoxicated.”
“Survey results show that the primary sources of supply for underage drinkers are parties, often held in private residences, and older friends or family members,” said Steen. “Parents can, and ought to, control what happens in their homes. Unfortunately,” he continued, “some parents are naive, and many are unaware of Texas’ underage drinking laws. That lack of understanding can breed illegal behavior and sometimes tragic consequences.”
For example, according to the TABC’s own research, most parents do not know it’s legal to give their minor children an alcoholic beverage either in or outside of the home as long as they are present, but illegal to give alcohol to their children’s friends, even with the friends’ parents’ knowledge and permission.
Further, while most parents expect penalties for providing alcohol to unrelated minors, most have no idea that they could face a maximum fine of $4,000, up to a year in jail, and under a new law just passed by the Texas Legislature, a one-year suspension of their driver’s licenses.
TABC is trying to reduce the level of underage drinking through a “Back to School” public information campaign targeting parents and young adults. The campaign will utilize newly produced English and Spanish language informational items developed by INVENTIVA, Inc., a San Antonio advertising agency. The Dallas and McAllen areas will serve as evaluation sites for the new materials.
Said Steen, “As most educators will tell you, the first weeks of school set the tone for the remainder of the school year. By timing this initiative to coincide with the start of the school year, the TABC hopes to secure the immediate support and voluntary compliance of parents and law abiding young adults and to prevent needless tragedies throughout the year.”
TABC’s research was conducted via telephone interviews in Dallas and McAllen. This followed focus group research on the same topic in the same markets in February 2005. These research projects and the development of the new public information materials were funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The formal evaluation of new materials now underway in Dallas and McAllen received funding from the same source.
Funding for the production and distribution of the informational materials used in the TABC’s Back to School Campaign was provided by a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation as part of that agency’s on-going support for the TABC’s efforts to reduce underage drinking and impaired driving through public education.