- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Andrea’s Project and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) partnered Tuesday to present “Parents Night Out, Talk, They Hear You!” to address underage substance abuse at Tascosa High School. State Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, was on hand to give an impassioned speech about engaging children about the dangers and repercussions of underage drinking.
Price said that he and other state leaders have over the years passed multiple laws to reduce alcohol and drug use by minors and have attacked drunk driving vigorously. Stressing that education of parents and their children was a key component in the battle against these dangerous behaviors, Price also stated that the region being second in the state for impaired driving is something that shows there is a problem that needs to be addressed at a community level.
“I am a father of four children, and one thing I am always telling them is that it's not just you that you have to worry about with your personal responsibility to getting in a car. Someone else might have been drinking, and if you know you can stop it, you should," Price said. “I really think we can pass all the laws we want, but unless there is engagement with folks at very practical boots on the ground level, where parents are talking to their kids and there is a lot more awareness in the community in schools and churches, to make the culture change."
Price stressed that laws alone will not make underage drinking and driving go away and prioritized education at a grass roots level to include much needed family engagement on this difficult matter.
“What it boils down to is having the education and comfort in talking to your kids being a great start to tackle this issue,” Price added.
David Elizalde knows firsthand the damage that drunk drinking can have on a family, having lost his daughter Andrea, who was a passenger in a vehicle that fell victim to its alcohol impaired 17-year-old driver Joe Rivera on Easter Sunday in 2019. Rivera, who lost control of his vehicle while driving intoxicated and at excessive speeds, survived the crash. A year later, Rivera died after an assault at a bar while out on bond.
Turning his personal tragedy into a mission to prevent another family from having to experience a senseless death to drunk driving, Elizalde started Andrea’s Project to push for change and to increase education and accountability on those that impact underage drinking. One of the major achievements locally has been getting the city of Amarillo to pass ordinance 7842, known as a social host ordinance, which puts greater responsibility on businesses or individuals to not allow underage drinking at their events or premises.
“So, after Andrea passed away, with all my family went through, I realized that I never wanted another family to go through what we went through, so I wanted to get as much information out into the community as I possibly could,” Elizalde said. “Seeing the devastation that drinking and driving has on families, it was inevitable to try to be a part of the community to try to make a difference.”
Elizalde said that people need to be much more aware of their surroundings and look for signs that others are impaired, especially when it comes to being in a vehicle.
“Your brain is not fully developed until you are 23 to 27 years old, so you are one mistake away from taking your life into your or another’s ill-equipped hands,” Elizalde said. “The chances are greatly influenced by age that you are going to be in an accident, and drinking just multiplies those chances that you can lose or take someone else’s life.”
He said he was impressed with the tools that TxDOT has to offer to parents and educators to talk with children about drinking and substance abuse. He stressed knowledge was a huge key in preventing these tragedies.
“It's not OK to drink and drive, but it is OK to make the right decision for yourself and your friends," Elizalde said. “Do not get into a vehicle with anyone that has been drinking; it could very well save your life. Drinking and driving is a choice made sober.”
Amarillo Police Chief Martin Birkenfeld was on hand for the forum and spoke about his department's concern with underage drinking.
“We think this problem of underage drinking is significantly pervasive, based on our historical data (and) based on the number of kids that we encounter,” Birkenfeld said. “You have to give your kids tools to resist peer pressure for drinking or other dangerous activities that you do not want your kids participating in.”
Birkenfeld emphasized that it may be tough to talk to your kids about alcohol, but it is a conversation that needs to be done. He said his department works hard to scan social media and any other avenues to reduce underage drinking.
“We still have a lot of work to do; we have seen a recent uptick in underage drinking, especially with more summer free time for kids,” Birkenfeld added. “This takes a community wide effort. I want to encourage parents to use every tool available to educate their kids, to help set boundaries, so they can have productive lives."
During the event, TxDOT Traffic Safety Specialist Laviza Matthews talked about ways that parents can address underage drinking and substance abuse. Matthews introduced the “Talk. They hear You” mobile app as a convenient tool for parents to talk to their children about these issues. This mobile tool works to equip parents to deal with conversations about these issues and gives them a way to prepare for these conversations.
The app can be downloaded on the Google and Apple stores for mobile phones, and more information about the application can be found at https://www.samhsa.gov/talk-they-hear-you/mobile-application.
“The goal of this campaign is to provide parents and caregivers with the resources they need to address the issue of alcohol and other drugs with children under the age of 21,” Matthews said. “The campaign has historically equipped parents with the knowledge and skills that help reduce and prevent underage drinking. Ultimately, we are trying to change behaviors that hopefully will eliminate drunk driving on Texas roadways.”
This article originally appeared on Amarillo Globe-News: TxDOT, Andrea's Project hold forum with parents on underage drinking