Safety stressed when celebrating graduation

Graduation season is here and with it comes a reason to celebrate. However, in order to keep graduates and other safe, authorities urge youths to keep alcohol out of the equation. New York State Police Troop B commander Maj. Richard C. Smith Jr. said motor vehicle accidents associated with teenagers that have participated in graduation parties where alcohol is served are unfortunately not an uncommon sight this time of year. Dangerous situations and unnecessary accidents can be avoided in many instance by exercising good judgement, he said. Always remember that a car can be a very dangerous place to be if youre not concentrating on what you are to be doing, which is traveling from one place to another, said Smith. If youre continuing the party atmosphere that you just left in the car, youre creating a situation where the probability of a problem increase exponentially. You really need to pay attention to what youre doing when youre operating a vehicle. Those who will be traveling back and forth from graduation parties are also urged to let the most experience driver operate the vehicle, as long as they are sober, said Smith. The best advice I would give to graduating seniors and those attending their parties is to not drink and drive, he said. However, alcohol isnt the only dangerous factor when getting behind the wheel, said Smith. Those who are extremely tired can also be dangerous on the road, with it only taking a second of distraction to lead to a major accident, he said. If youre overtired, dont try to make it home because you have a curfew and end up falling asleep behind the wheel. Rely on your parents. Dont be susceptible to peer pressure and find it unacceptable for your parents to be involved with keeping you safe by transporting you to or from a graduation party, Smith said. Parents stay up late worrying about their kids during graduation season because they know there are a lot of inexperienced drivers, people who might drink and drive, and tired operators who are out there late hours that increase the chances of being involved in a motor vehicle accident. While Smith encourages parents to host their own childs graduation parties, which allows them to know where their children are and keep track of what their children are doing, he stresses that responsibility on their part is just as important/ Parents who host graduation parties where underage drinking is allowed are subject to a charge of unlawfully dealing with a child, which is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine, he said. That charge, noted Smith, is what a parent could expect to receive if solely found to be providing alcohol to a minor. Other repercussions could be seen if a minor who has been served is involved with a motor vehicle accident as a result of being under the influence of alcohol. Theres certainly civil liability and other criminal liability associated with the provision of that alcohol, said Smith. According to the most recent statistics compiled by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, an estimated 17,602 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes across the nation in 2006, averaging about one accident every 30 minutes. The deaths constitute 41 percent of the 42,642 total traffic fatalities. Of these, an estimated 13,470 involved a driver with an illegal blood alcohol content level of 0.08 percent or greater. In Troop B, which encompasses Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton and St. Lawrence counties, approximately nine fatal accidents have occurred since the beginning of the year a trend Smith said he would like to see stay down. This is a very critical time in young peoples lives and a very dangerous time in their lives, said Smith. The criminal side aside, we dont want to see kids get hurt or killed. Thats really the bottom line.

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