Underage drinking is a problem in every corner of the country, and the state of Texas is no exception. Drinking before the age of 21 is not only illegal, it is dangerous. Because teens in Texas are drinking illegally, they often do it far away from adult supervision. This means that they are more likely to drink too much, to get alcohol poisoning, to overdose, and to make poor decisions about a variety of things, not least of which is driving. There are numerous statistics to show why drinking underage is prevalent in Texas, and damaging to Texas teens.
According to the most recent survey from the Texas Department of State Health Services, alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among teens in the state. The survey found that 58 percent of secondary school students had abused alcohol at some point in their lives. The number is down from previous years, but is still disturbingly high. The survey from the Health Services Department also found that 18 percent of students in grades seven through twelve had binged on alcohol at least once in the month prior to the study. Binge drinking is defined as at least five drinks over a short period of time. This statistic is down only two percentage points from the previous survey year.
Drinking and Driving
Texas is the worst state for drunk driving. It leads the country in the number of deaths caused by traffic accidents related to alcohol. The number has been going down, but is still too high. In 2011, there were 1,213 deaths caused by alcohol-related car accidents. That number represents 4.7 per 100,000 people in the state. Nearly three-quarters of the accidents involved drivers that were way over the legal limit, meaning a blood alcohol content of greater than 0.15. The drinking and driving that wreaks havoc across Texas is not just related to adults aged 21 and over. Underage drinkers are also getting behind the wheel and driving while impaired. In 2011, over 85,000 arrests were made in Texas for driving under the influence. Of those, 660 were teens under the age of 18. Over 2,500 teens under 18 were arrested for drunkenness in 2011.
The Dangers of Underage Drinking
Clearly, one of the most important concerns about young people drinking is that they will drive while intoxicated. However, the statistics also indicate that adults of legal age are not much better at making good choices when it comes to drinking and driving. Driving under the influence is dangerous for everyone, not just teens. The truth is that there are many more dangers to worry about when teens are drinking. According to new data released by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), drunk driving is not actually the biggest danger for underage drinkers. MADD released the data recently in Houston and announced that there is a bigger concern. According to the data from the advocacy group, of the 3,587 deaths of young people between the ages of 15 and 20 that were related to alcohol, most of them were not caused by drunk driving. A full 68 percent of those deaths were homicides, alcohol poisoning, suicides, and other types of deaths. Nearly one-third of the deaths were homicides, 14 percent were suicides, 9 percent were from alcohol poisoning, and the rest were other causes. MADD released their findings to help better inform both parents and teens. The goal was to show parents that taking away a child’s car keys does not necessarily keep him or her safe from the dangers of underage drinking. The leaders of MADD emphasize to parents that such measures are not always adequate and that a conversation with your children is important, including about when and how to seek treatment for alcohol addiction. The vast majority of parents believe that their children are not interested in drinking, which does not match up with the statistics about teens and alcohol. The women of MADD would like to see underage drinking rates drop in Texas and around the country. By educating both parents and their teens about the dangers of abusing alcohol, and not just emphasizing drinking and driving, they hope to keep more people safe and alive.