UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - With graduation parties, summer barbecues, and college kids on break, police say the next three months are when they will see a huge spike in drinking and driving, especially for those under the age of 21.
"I've seen lives destroyed, lives ruined. I've seen people whose best friends or girlfriends have been killed because they chose to drink and drive and they were the survivor and their life to go on is so hard," said Susan Cooper, a certified child life specialist at Oneida-Madison-Herkimer BOCES.
On Tuesday night Cooper sat on a panel of law enforcement, educators and substance abuse specialists in a town hall meeting to get out the facts on underage drinking- like that car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and about one-fourth involve an underage drinking driver.
"We want to stop that accident before it happens. We want to stop that arrest before it's made and we want to stop that teenager from making a destructive decision before they do so they don't ruin their life," said Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol.
It's important to talk to your kids about drinking and driving before they get behind the wheel, but now that one in three eighth graders are trying alcohol it's important to start the conversation even earlier.
"You should start talking to your kids when they're little and keep the lines of communication open so they talk to you, so they can call if they need help and also offer to be there for your kids if they need a ride and encourage them to make wise decisions," said Cooper.
Sheriff Maciol says there's a zero tolerance policy for underage drivers that have any amount of alcohol in their system. Drinking and driving, buying alcohol for a minor, or falsifying an ID can all land you behind bars.
"That criminal history will haunt them for the rest of their life. If they're convicted for the charge they can never fill out a job application saying they've never been convicted of something because they have- that one foolish mistake," said Sheriff Maciol.
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