Utah Department of Public Safety

Highway Safety - Youth Alcohol

Youth Alcohol Program

Why Is the Highway Safety Office Involved in Underage Drinking Projects?

The areas of the brain that encourage impulsivity and risk-taking develop early in teens, while the area that improves self-control does not develop until the very late teens or early twenties. Youth under the age of 21 lack experience in driving vehicles. They have not had time to develop safe driving skills and gain experience. These two factors added together create seriously dangerous conditions combining underage drinking and inexperienced drivers on our roads and highways.

In Utah, one in ten kids experiment with alcohol in elementary school, and binge drinking is a common activity by the 10th grade.

Because the pleasure/reward centers in a teen’s brain are still forming (and are highly affected by alcohol), more than 40 percent of those who start drinking before age 15 will become alcohol dependant at some point during their lives, compared to just 7 percent of those who wait until the legal age of 21.

Alcohol is a gateway drug. Teens who start drinking by age 15 are 67% more likely to try illicit drugs.

Underage alcohol use is strongly correlated with violence, poor academic performance, promiscuity, arrest and many other dangers. Alcohol use by teens is one of the strongest predictors of teen injury, fighting, academic problems, truancy, unprotected sexual activity, unwanted sexual advances, illegal activity and other illicit drug use.

New research shows that underage drinking can cause long-term damage to a teen’s developing brain, especially to those areas of the brain responsible for memory, learning, judgment and impulse control.

In response to a growing national concern over this new research, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a “Call to Action” in early 2007 http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/underagedrinking/index.html. He stated in part, “Recent studies show that alcohol consumption has the potential to trigger long-term biological changes that may have detrimental effects on the developing adolescent brain, including neuro-cognitive impairment. Adolescent alcohol use is not an acceptable rite of passage but a serious threat to adolescent development and health.”

Most adults do not perceive the risk and harms of youth drinking alcohol. Educating parents is the key to eliminating access of alcohol to youth. Both at home and also in the community, access to alcohol needs to be restricted.

Who Provides Funding for the Projects?

The Utah Highway Safety Office receives funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to combat underage drinking.

The grant period for OJJDP funding runs from June 1 - May 31 and the project period runs for two years. The Highway Safety Office has received funding every year since 1999. The amount of the grant funding from OJJDP is typically $360,000.00.

The funding is utilized for Administration, Underage Buyer Programs, Campus Programs, Technology Transfer (training), Public Information and Education, Youth Court, Equipment and Youth Alcohol Enforcement Task Forces.

At least $100,000 is representative of the NHTSA funding and is used to combat underage drinking in Utah. Programs for this funding include; Youth Support, Serving Intoxicated Persons (SIP) and youth alcohol suppression, and TRACE (Targeting Responsibility for Alcohol Connected Emergencies.

HSO is also an active participant in the statewide Parents Empowered media and education campaign which is funded through the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

What Are the Legal Consequences for Underage Drinking and Underage Drinking and Driving?

Alcohol can not only have an effect on underage people's brains -- it can also have serious consequences for their futures. If they are arrested for underage drinking, youths can wind up in court. Many schools have codes of conduct that will result in dismissal from teams or clubs for students that are involved in underage drinking.

For details about the legal consequences of underage drinking, click here.

What Projects Target Underage Drinking?

Youth Alcohol-Drug Enforcement
The Youth Alcohol Drug Enforcement project is required to apprehend underage drinkers. The project schedules shifts targeting parks, recreation areas, canyons, undeveloped areas and urban areas with extra patrol to eliminate underage drinking and impaired driving. Activity reports on alcohol related arrests are recorded and submitted on a monthly basis, utilizing the Data Collection Technical Assistant Tool (DCTAT) for semi-annual reports.

Youth alcohol parties are held in recreational areas as well as residential locations. Often these parties involve large groups of juveniles who have driven themselves to the party.They then leave the party in an intoxicated state in a vehicle. Patrol units assigned to an area are most often unable to adequately handle enforcement of these parties due to the large number of persons in attendance. Surveillance and detection by patrol officers is also difficult in marked cars and uniforms.

Objectives for these projects include citing juveniles, minor adults (18-20 years of age) and adults for underage possession or consumption, and providing alcohol to minors. Officers enforce “use/lose” laws and “zero tolerance” laws, for drivers under 21 years of age. Operations include sobriety checkpoints targeting youth and holding violators accountable for violations of such laws and well-publicized enforcement of impaired driving laws. Citations are issued for use of false identification. Shoulder-tap operations are conducted at convenience and liquor stores.


Training and Education
Education and training have been limited for youth, adults and for law enforcement regarding alcohol and the effects and dangers of alcohol on youth. The past few years there has been a wealth of information available regarding underage drinking. The HSO intends to make that information available through trainings, presentations and providing information at community events. Law enforcement officers need the training, skills and tools necessary to effectively conduct underage drinking enforcement operations.

Detective Denny Bird teaching students about the N.O.V.A. program. The mission of N.O.V.A. Principles is: "Nurturing youth to seek out positive Opportunities, internalize good Values, and to accept Accountability for their choices in life. N.O.V.A. assists parents, families, and communities in protecting youth from the potentially devastating effects of illegal drugs, violence, and negative media exposure."

Campus Programs
HSO provides funding to colleges, universities and youth court programs in Utah to educate students about underage drinking and impaired driving. Increased public awareness programs, education and training for youth, and the community at conferences, summits and presentations on the subject of underage drinking and impaired driving are a major part of the campus projects. HSO provides funding to the campus programs to encourage them to develop and distribute incentives/brochures to educate the student and college-age community about the effects of alcohol on the adolescent brain and alcohol dependency from early use. College/university campus and youth court programs are provided with funding to assist with education, literature, workshops, and training; secondary prevention provides crisis intervention, aftercare, support groups and referrals. Students provide prevention efforts to expand to co-sponsorship of alcohol-free activities which include new student orientation, alcohol and drug awareness week, impaired driving and underage drinking traffic safety issues for upcoming spring break as well as other social activities.

Public Awareness Campaigns
Public awareness campaigns include scheduling events such as the Utah Chief’s Association and Utah Sheriff’s Association conferences to present a display educating law enforcement officers about the battle to eliminate underage drinking. HSO attends community events, schools, and other venues to provide information announcing funding that is available for task forces, coalitions, equipment, supplies and other educational materials. HSO utilizes prevention materials from the “Parents Empowered” statewide media campaign to educate parents and the community about the effects of alcohol on the teen brain. Brochures and literature provide resources for parents to obtain further information on parenting skills, monitoring and bonding with their children and learning the consequences of underage drinking.

Underage Buyer Programs
The Utah Highway Patrol – Alcohol Enforcement Team, Underage Buyer Program conducts compliance checks at private clubs and restaurants. The TRACE (Targeting Responsibility for Alcohol Connected Emergencies) investigations team responds to calls 24/7 when law enforcement agencies request assistance in seeking the source of alcohol for serious crashes. By discovering the source of alcohol, the team can help determine if any laws were violated when the alcohol was provided. If they were, the provider can be held accountable legally and civilly for the role they played in the alcohol-related crash. The team also participates in Impaired Driving DUI Checkpoints with a focus on youth.


For more information

Please contact

Carrie Silcox
Program Manager
Impaired Driving/Youth Alcohol Programs
(801) 386-1888

[Last Update - Monday, 15-Dec-2014 20:10:02 MST]