Sadie Says …

Frequently asked questions about older adult issues

Q. “My grandson is home from college. He’s a drinker and I know he’ll be attending parties. His parents and I are concerned — what do we need to know?

A. As your grandson heads out for summer celebrations, there are a few things that you, as an adult, should know.

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among young drivers. Almost 20 percent of drivers age 16-20 involved in fatal crashes in Pennsylvania were drinking drivers. This percentage more than doubles in the 21-25 age group.

Alcohol, mixed with driving, seriously threatens young lives. It takes less alcohol to impair a teen’s driving ability. That, in combination with lower body weight, lower alcohol tolerance, underdeveloped driving skills and general lack of driving or drinking experience, can have deadly results.

Teens and young adults are generally risk takers. Most crashes involving teens are one-car crashes, occur late at night, on a weekend, involve speeding into a fixed object, include passengers and no seat belt use and, if alcohol-related, involve beer.

As an adult, if you have a young adult in your life, you need to know the facts.

Drunk — on TWO drinks?

Many young adults don’t understand how they can become drunk on just two drinks.

Drinks pretty much pack the same punch — a 12 ounce beer or wine cooler, a 4-5 ounce glass of wine and a 1 1/2 shot of liquor — all are standard servings of alcohol and all contain the same amount of alcohol. If the drinks are mixed drinks, they could have several shots or “standard” servings per drink. Some mixed drinks have up to five shots per drink. Also, a craft beer can have substantially more alcohol than a regular beer. So, a person could get drunk on two drinks.

A myth among young adults is that “buzzed” is not drunk. “Buzzed” driving is drunk driving. A person doesn’t have to trip, slip or slur their words to be drunk and unsafe to drive.

He can’t be arrested; he wasn’t even drinking!

Under Pennsylvania’s Underage Drinking Law, if a person is under 21, they can be arrested even if they were not driving, drinking or legally drunk. If they use a false ID, try to purchase, possess or have consumed any alcohol, they can be arrested.

If someone — an adult or minor — sells or furnishes alcohol to minors, that person can be fined $1,000 for the first minor and $2,500 for each additional minor. Each minor, not each occasion, is considered an offense.

On the other hand, if they’re under 21 and they do drink and drive … under Pennsylvania’s Zero Tolerance Law, if a person is under 21 and is caught driving with any alcohol in their system, they will face the same consequences as an adult caught Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

At least they’re not doing drugs.

Alcohol is a drug. It is a depressant, like barbiturates, that affects judgment first. Impairment begins with the first drink.

Mix alcohol with other drugs, including many prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications, and the effects are compounded and potentially fatal.

DUI is not just Driving Under the Influence of alcohol. If you drive under the influence of prescription or over-the-counter medication or any drug or combination of drugs that impairs your ability to drive safely, you can be arrested for DUI.

Let’s talk alcohol!

Talk is cheap, but it can be the best way to keep your grandchild on track. Talk to your grandson about drinking and driving after drinking. Don’t lecture. Listen. Be calm, firm and consistent. Your influence can reduce your grandchild’s risk of underage drinking by up to 30 percent.

Work with your grandson’s parents. Set rules and stick to them. Establish guidelines — don’t drive or let a friend drive, if drinking. Don’t ride, or let a friend ride, with a driver who’s been drinking. And always, always buckle up — it’s the best defense against drinking, drugged or distracted drivers.

Do as I do!

Set a good example. Act responsibly with alcohol in front of your grandchild. Respect the law; don’t drive after drinking or give alcohol to a minor and his/her peers to “keep them at home.” (Telling your grandchild it is OK to break the law is not OK.)

Sadie Says … is brought to you by the Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition’s Safe Communities Task Force, whose members include AAA North Penn, AARP, Area Agency on Aging and regional transportation and highway safety advocates.

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