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High underage alcohol use troubling local authorities

Availability contributes to more injuries, fatalities

By the numbers:

California Alcohol Impaired Driving Fatalities 2010 Data

• Total Alcohol Impaired Driving Fatalities: 791

• Under 21 Alcohol Impaired Driving Fatalities: 94

Arrest Data

Driving under the influence

• Under 18:1,080

• Total: 195,276

Liquor laws

• Under 18: 4,275

• Total: 17,007

Drunkenness

• Under 18: 3,583

• Total: 105,388

Source: The Century Council,

www.centurycouncil.org

SAN BERNARDINO • Despite national and state initiatives that have sought to regulate alcohol sales and keep it out of the hands of those under the age of 21, alcohol is still being consumed by underage youth, contributing to a number of public safety issues in San Bernardino County, according to the Archs Institute.

The largest city in the county — San Bernardino — has nearly twice the number of alcohol retailers per residents than is recommended by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the press release states.

More surprisingly, half of the county’s 11th-graders reported in the California Healthy Kids Survey that it is “very easy” for them to obtain alcohol.

“Alcohol availability is a public health issue that affects many aspects of a community,” Dr. Robert Nash Parker, a University of California, Riverside, sociologist, said in a statement. “If you have 15-year-olds who are able to easily obtain alcohol, it is harming the community. If they’re causing abuse and injury, you end up spending a lot more of the public’s money fixing these problems.”

Parker’s research shows a strong correlation between the density of alcohol outlets and violent crime rates, particularly among young teens and adults. However a corre- lation does not establish a causal relationship.

“The community must realize this is a safety issue, and local leaders should take immediate and comprehensive actions to reduce the dangers associated with alcohol availability,” Parker said.

In San Bernardino County alone in 2011, more than 10,000 people were hospitalized due to injuries or illnesses related to alcohol use, according to California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

The most recent data released by the California Highway Patrol shows the county ranked second in the state in the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2010. The Archs Institute reports those same statistics reveal the county tallied the fifth-highest number of injuries sustained in alcohol-related crashes among all California counties. San Bernardino County has the fourth largest population in the state.

“Alcohol use is a contributing factor in far too many automobile collisions,” San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said in the press release. “In addition to the dangers it presents on our roads, alcohol is a contributing factor in countless situations where domestic violence and criminal behavior occur.”

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