A CHP officer arrests a drunk driver. Courtesy CHP
A CHP officer arrests a drunk driver. Courtesy CHP

By The East County Youth Coalition

A 19-year-old driver involved in an alleged DUI crash in Lakeside last month became a part of a growing trend. Last year, 207 San Diego County residents aged 16-20 were involved in a drinking and driving crash according to California Highway Patrol data. That’s a four percent jump from 2014.

As teenagers that fall into that age range, we don’t want to become another statistic. We joined the East County Youth Coalition because preventing underage drinking is everyone’s responsibility.

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Unfortunately, many of our peers are adding to those statistics. According to the 2015 Healthy Kids Survey, 45 percent of San Diego County 11th graders reported trying alcohol while 22 percent of them reported they had consumed alcohol in the past 30 days.

Even more startling, the same data shows that one in four ninth graders in San Diego County have also tried alcohol. That’s especially concerning, as researchers at Duke University have found that exposure to alcohol during adolescence causes long-lasting structural and functional abnormalities in the brain.

As students at Mt. Miguel High School, we passed out flyers during our Oct.7  homecoming football game to highlight the consequences of providing alcohol to minors. That was an effort to inform parents; now we’re expanding our focus to inform our classmates about the dangers of underage drinking, before it’s too late.

After all, the East County region already had the fourth highest rate of emergency department discharges for alcohol abuse among 12- to 20-year-olds.

The Lakeside drinking and driving collision illustrates just that. Two CHP officers were hurt in the crash, as well as three of the driver’s friends.

Everyone involved in the collision has had the course of their lives forever altered.

The driver will likely face felony charges.

Preventing high-risk drinking is everyone’s responsibility. Where did the teenager who was involved in the car crash get the alcohol she admitted to drinking? Adults need to step up and protect teens by keeping alcohol out of the hands of anyone under age 21. Kids should never get in a car with anyone who has been drinking. Their future may very well depend on it.

The authors are students from Mt. Miguel High School in Spring Valley and members of the East County Youth Coalition, a local youth group that works to reduce binge and underage drinking and other drug-related issues in the community.