St. Patrick's Day celebrations which will begin today and spring college breaks in March mean it's a dangerous time for everyone to be on the roads --- especially young people who drink too much.
That's the message from the Unified Prevention Coalition, a group which works to battle underage drinking. The legal drinking age in Virginia and the U.S. is 21.
The Coalition has joined with the Fairfax County Police Department to use a recently received $200,000 state grant to find ways to reduce underage drinking. The grant was announced recently at the McLean Police District station.
Capt. Bruce Ferguson, a UPC board member and commander of the Fairfax County Police Youth Services Division, said grant money will help the coalition get better data, enforcement and and raising awareness, especially among parents, of the dangers of underage drinking.
"You parents are key to any decision (your children) make. . . We need to change that complacency as parents that says I did it and I turned out okay," he said.
"Give your children expectation --- I tell them don't drink it's not acceptable," said Ferguson, the father of six daughters.
Drinking can lead to car accidents, sexual assault "making bad decisions" like putting embarrassing pictures on the Internet and eeffects that will be long lasting, he said.
Where do teenagers get alcochol? At home. Over 65 percent of the alcohol comes from the home, said Diane Eckert, executive director of the coalition said.
"The younger you start drinking heavily, the more prone you are to becoming an alcohol abuser in your late 20's," she said.