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Daily News Editorial

By Staff | Sep 19, 2008

Friday is homecoming for all high-school students in Emmet County, with both Armstrong-Ringsted and Estherville Lincoln Central observing this annual rite of passage for fall sports teams and their fans.

Homecoming can be a time for the first dance, the first tackle and the first touchdown. Tragically, it can also be the time for the first and final drink.

Alcohol and teens and cars are a very bad combination. Statistics show that, even for adults, one or two drinks multiply the chances of having an accident. Statistics also show that teens have a higher chance of getting into an accident than adults. Insurance rates certainly testify to that. So what happens when you put an inexperienced driver – and an inexperienced drinker – behind the wheel?

The result is often disaster. While teens take more chances when driving than adults when sober, their judgment is completely gone with alcohol in their system. Mix inexperienced drivers with drivers with no judgment, and you have trouble.

And the penalties are severe.

Iowa’s General Assembly enacted a Zero Tolerance law that permits Iowa law enforcement officers to apprehend, cite and confiscate the drivers licenses of drivers under 21 years who have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .02 or greater. There was widespread ignorance about the new law and its penalties, particularly among youth, as documented by several focus groups conducted around the state.

Iowa has continued to spread and promote the Zero Tolerance message through the “Get a Grip Program.” This program trains high-school students and counselors on the negative effects of alcohol and the hazards of drinking and driving.

And that’s a good thing.

Teens who are thinking of drinking and driving should think not only of themselves but the persons who are riding with them.

A passenger who may find himself or herself in the position of getting a ride with a driver who has been drinking should decline the ride and call his or her parents or some other responsible driver.

Parents should provide cell phones to their teens for just such an occasion. Wouldn’t it be better to get that ‘inconvenient’ phone call at 11:30, 12:30, even 2:30, than to get a call from the county jail or Highway Patrol or the morgue?

The worst person to be behind the wheel is someone who has been behind the bottle. It’s a dangerous combination at best.

So think, don’t drink, this homecoming weekend.