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Community Involvement key in Campaign to Combat Underage Drinking

Aug. 25, 1999 (Release 99-172)
News Contact: Rosalie Thornburgh, Chief
Bureau of Traffic Safety
(785) 296-3756

Law Enforcement Agencies Across the State Appreciate Community Involvement in Campaign to Combat Underage Drinking

TOPEKA - Law enforcement officials throughout Kansas are responding to a growing number of citizens reports on underage drinking parties.

Since May, the Kansas Department of Transportation has been working with law enforcement agencies to promote awareness of problems associated with underage drinking and to encourage people to call when they learn about a drinking party.

This initiative's theme is simple, yet powerful: "Care about underage drinking. Call your local law enforcement." The campaign's objective is to make the state's roadways safer for all motorists by empowering citizens to proactively discourage drinking and driving.

Many communities throughout Kansas are beginning to realize the need to play a stronger role in the safety of their teenage citizens. As parents, neighbors, friends and relatives embrace the idea that calling their local law enforcement is an act of caring, they are beginning to speak up.

The Butler County Sheriff's Department is handling between 10 and 15 reports of underage drinking per month, a slight increase over previous years. The Kansas Highway Patrol, Shawnee County Sheriff's Office and Topeka Police Department consolidated dispatch center has recorded nearly 50 calls between May and June.

"The Care/Call campaign has helped us communicate the importance of community involvement," said Sheriff Glen Kochanowski of Saline County. "The response to the initiative has been very positive. People are actively alerting our office when they hear about an underage drinking party - even the schools have gotten involved."

According to Jim Conant, director of the Kansas Alcohol Beverage Control, it is important for the community to take an active role in combating underage drinking because many teenagers don't realize the consequences of attending underage drinking parties.

"Even if kids understand the serious dangers of drunk driving and alcohol poisoning, they usually don't understand this is a criminal offense that will follow them throughout their lives," Conant said. "One bad decision is not worth a lifetime of problems."

But the purpose of the Care/Call campaign is not punishment. It is education.

"The Care/Call campaign is starting to build awareness across the state, and that's our main goal," said E. Dean Carlson, Secretary of KDOT. "We need people to understand underage drinking is not simply a matter of harmless fun or kids just being kids."

Carlson said the underage drinking initiative is one of many tools local law enforcement agencies can employ to combat underage drinking. The public awareness it raises gives communities a better opportunity to keep their children safe.

No matter how an underage drinking party ends up, children lose. They face the danger of serious car crashes, alcohol poisoning and a lifetime of lost employment opportunities. But these negative outcomes can be avoided with the help of the community.

One positive action - a phone call - can help keep our kids safe. And that's what KDOT and local law enforcement officials are counting on as the Care/Call campaign continues.

For more information about the program please contact the KDOT Bureau of Traffic Safety at 785-296-3756 or Corporate Communications Group at 913-451-2990.