Mothers Against Drunk Driving has marked April 21 as “PowerTalk 21,” a day for parents to talk with their children about alcohol.
MADD’s Virginia office held a press conference at New Song United Methodist Church in Mechanicsville Thursday morning to raise awareness of PowerTalk 21 and their free parent handbook, “The Power of Parents,” which can be downloaded from madd.org/powerofparents.
The dangers of underage drinking extend far beyond driving, according to speakers.
Chris Konschak, manager of MADD’s Virginia office, cited data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
He said traffic fatalities account for 32 percent of deaths related to underage drinking. The remaining two-thirds includes homicides, suicides, alcohol poisonings, and other causes of death.
“This new data illustrates the importance of preventing underage drinking, even if there’s no driving involved. Taking away the keys doesn’t take away the risk when it comes to underage drinking,” Konschak said.
He and other speakers emphasized that parents are the greatest influence on a teen’s decision about drinking.
Nationwide Insurance is a national sponsor of the Power of Parents program.
Todd Brewer, associate vice president of sales for Nationwide’s mid-Atlantic region, spoke at the press conference.
“I can’t think of a more important issue to families than to help parents have this conversation with teens about drinking and driving. Teen alcohol kills about 5,000 people each year, but the problem goes beyond fatalities,” Brewer said.
Konschak commended Hanover Cares for its efforts in implementing the Power of Parents program locally. Hanover Cares is a coalition of Hanover residents, youth-serving organizations, and county agencies dedicated to eliminating substance abuse among youth.
He noted that the coalition also includes churches, and six Hanover churches would be distributing the Power of Parents handbook on April 21.
New Song United Methodist, All Soul’s Episcopal, Messiah Lutheran, Ashland Church of God, Center Point Church, and Grace Community Presbyterian committed to participating.
Additionally, New Song scheduled a Power of Parents workshop for Wednesday evening, April 24, from 7 to 7:30 p.m. at the church on Colt’s Neck Road.
Chad Herndon, New Song pastor, said the church wants to “create a positive home and school environment for our students and adults.”
“Sacrificing a few minutes in our worship service, providing space for community meetings to be held, it’s just an easy request that helps us put life-saving resources into the homes and into the hands of the wider community.
“In and of itself, that is not a final answer, but it is starting a conversation for how we as a community can make positive and safe decisions,” Herndon said.
Sgt. Chris Whitley spoke on behalf of the Hanover Sheriff’s Office, mentioning the department’s partnerships with organizations such as MADD, Hanover Cares, and the faith community to curb underage drinking.
“While we feel that our combined efforts have a positive impact, we all agree that there is no influence more powerful, more important than a child’s parents,” Whitley said.
He told parents, “If you’re not talking to your children, you can be 100 percent certain that someone else is, and it’s probably not who you would want it to be.
“So our challenge to parents is simple. Continue to talk to your children. By staying involved in their lives, you may be saving their lives.”
Wendy Logan of the Hanover Council of PTAs said, “The Virginia PTA mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all of our children.
“Hopefully this program will allow our children to have more information and open that dialogue between our parents and our children.”
For more information, go online to madd.org/powerofparents. Anyone who downloads the parent handbook during the month of April is entered into a drawing to win an iPad.