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DUI patrols will increase throughout prom season in Colorado

For many teenagers, the next few months are among the most exciting of the year -- and of their entire high school career. That's because the next sixty days-plus will not only see diplomas handed out at graduation, but also the rite of passage that is the prom. However, teens here in Colorado should be aware that the start of prom season was not only noted by school administrators, teachers and even area retailers, but also law enforcement officials.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is once again joining forces with the Colorado State Patrol and local police departments via "The Heat is On" campaign to conduct a prom season crackdown on drunk driving. Scheduled to run from April 6 through May 18, the campaign will mean more officers out on the roads and freeways during peak traffic hours for prom goers.

"Prom is a night to remember: a time that should include laughter, fun and reminiscing with friends. But when alcohol and drugs are involved, the night can quickly turn disastrous," said Col. Scott Hernandez, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol.

While a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that drunk driving among teens has declined by as much as 54 percent over the last two decades, there is no denying that it remains a major problem. Indeed, the same CDC report found that anywhere from 4.6 percent to 8.9 percent of teens 16 and older here in Colorado reported driving under the influence.

The good news is that law enforcement officials say there are a few steps that that teens can follow to protect themselves from DUI-related troubles this prom season:

  • Avoid getting into a car with a driver who has consumed any amount of alcohol or marijuana, despite their assurances that they are okay to drive; In the event this happens, fall back on an emergency plan set up ahead of time in which a sober driver can be called.
  • Enjoy alcohol-free safe spaces set up by schools for prom after parties.
  • Call 911 if you see an intoxicated prom patron get behind the wheel.

Teens heading out for prom night should also understand the legal consequences of underage consumption. For example, Colorado law dictates that anyone under the age of 21 is prohibited from consuming alcohol or marijuana. Any such consumption could potentially result in the loss of a driver's license -- even for those not driving when this violation occurred.

Furthermore, a DUI conviction can cost thousands of dollars in fines, result in mandatory attendance at a treatment program and the loss of a driver's license. For young people, a DUI conviction can also jeopardize both college acceptance and future employment.

Are you a parent of a teen going to the prom? Is their school doing anything to address underage drinking and driving? Are you taking any steps with your household?

Source: Colorado Department of Transportation, "Underage drinking, adult consequences this prom season: Where do you want your child on prom night?" April 2, 2014; USA Today, "Temptation high for drunk driving in prom, grad season," Jessica Bliss, April 4, 2014

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