Teen Drinking: 6 Ways Parents Can Ensure A Safe Graduation Season

Summer is just around the corner here in Oregon, which means that young people throughout the state will soon be donning caps and gowns and marching toward graduation. If you’re a parent of a soon-to-be grad, then you know that this time of the year also means hosting and attending multiple graduation parties. Though these events are generally fun and memorable,  they’re also a high-risk time for underage drinking. 

As we head into the 2017 graduation season, I encourage your family to stay informed about the dangers, laws, and consequences of underage drinking and be prepared to handle the risks associated with this time of the year. Here are 6 tips for ensuring the safety of your teen during graduation.


1. Understand The Dangers of Teen Drinking

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), underage alcohol use is more likely to kill young people than all illegal drugs combined. Whether it’s drinking and driving, violent or property crimes, or through unintentional injury, underage drinking is a leading cause of death and injury among teens.  

Beyond physical danger, underage drinking can also translate into criminal records and jail terms that your teen will have to deal with for years to come. For example, if your teen receives a DUI, disclosure of the resulting conviction may be required on college applications, job applications, or when applying for certain types of financial aid.

At a time when the outlook for your teen is so bright, something as seemingly innocent as celebrating with drinks at a graduation party can seriously damage his or her future. 


2. Don’t Assume Your Teen Is Safe Under Adult Supervision

The presence of adults at a party is not a good reason to assume that your teen will avoid trouble. The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility notes that 55% of current underage drinkers list family and friends as their source of the alcohol they consumed. 

Additionally, 48% of teens report that the last time they drank alcohol it was in someone else’s house.

Unless you explicitly trust the host parent and know that no alcohol will be present at the event, avoid letting your teen attend any graduation parties without your supervision.


3. Know Oregon’s Social Host Laws

It may be obvious, but if you decide to host a graduation party at your residence, avoid serving alcohol.

This is particularly important if you plan on inviting other underage teens. Oregon law does allow parents to provide their children with alcohol, but only in a private residence and the parent must be accompanying the minor. However, the law also specifies that an adult who exercises control over private property may not knowingly allow the consumption of liquor by persons under 21 years of age.

Liability for providing someone else’s teen with alcohol, even with the permission of the teen’s parent, carries serious consequences to the hosting adult. These consequences range from a conviction of a Class A misdemeanor, fines of up to $1,500, 30 days of imprisonment, and financial responsibility for damages committed by the alcohol-consuming teen.

Additionally, if you provide alcohol to a minor and the result is a motor vehicle accident, your name will be placed on the Oregon Liquor Control Commission register.


4. Drinking And Driving Is Not An Option

Drinking and driving is an extremely dangerous practice with drivers under the age of 21 representing 17% of fatal alcohol-related crashes. The legal blood alcohol content limit for most drivers is .08%. However, under Oregon’s zero tolerance law, there is no legal BAC for those under 21. Just one drink can lead to a driving under the influence of intoxication (DUII) charge and a suspended license for underage drivers. 

Your teen faces liabilities even if he or she hasn't been drinking, but is driving a vehicle that is involved in an accident where alcohol is present. If your graduate will be driving with others in the car, make sure he or she understands that alcohol inside the vehicle is strictly prohibited. 

Many people have questions about DUII laws, and the truth is that there is a lot of false information floating around out there. As a parent, it’s important that both you make an effort to educate yourself on this subject and share that knowledge with the teens in your family.


5. Always Have A Backup Plan

Even if you’re confident that your teen won’t get into a dangerous situation, it’s best to establish a backup plan in case of an emergency. Make sure your teen knows there are options if he or she is ever faced with a peer pressure situation-- whether that’s getting in a car with a drunk driver or being offered a drink at a party. Give your commitment to always be available to come to the rescue and you may also want to consider setting up an Uber or Lyft account that your teen can access when needed.


6. Communicate With Your Graduate

Studies confirm that parents have a significant--if not the most significant--impact on whether their teens will engage in risky behaviors, including the use of alcohol. Talking with your teen not only about the dangers of alcohol consumption, but also the legal consequences, is key. Ensure that your graduate understands the laws surrounding this behavior and the effect something like a DUI can have on his or her future

You should also talk to your teen about the graduation parties they want to attend and get as much information as possible beforehand. Find out where the party will be and who will be hosting. Consider contacting the parents hosting each party to remind them about social host laws and make sure no alcohol will be served.


Do You Have Questions About Oregon Drinking Laws and Liability?

Contact me, Adam Greenman. I encourage parents of teens to call me at no charge to talk about Oregon drinking laws and the steps to take in order to protect the future of your graduate.

Additionally, there are many complex penalties and rules associated with underage drinking, so I always recommend obtaining legal advice before making any legal decisions. As an experienced Portland DUII attorney, I can help you understand your rights and help you achieve the best possible outcome.

Call me today at (503) 227-3800. Your consultation is always free and is always confidential.

Adam Greenman
Adam Greenman has been a trusted criminal defense and personal injury attorney in Portland for over 15 years. A graduate of Lewis and Clark School of Law and an experienced former prosecutor, Adam is a proud member of the Oregon State Bar Association, Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, and the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. He is known for providing personal, one-on-one attention to clients.