Each spring as the school year draws to a close, high schools across the state begin preparing for their junior/senior proms and graduations. While these events are usually met with great anticipation by school administrators, students and parents, there is another dangerous reality ... underage drinking at parties to celebrate the occasions.

While schools do a great job of providing after-prom parties and activities as a safe alternative, too often some students will not attend the school-sponsored party, and instead choose to attend parties that provide alcoholic beverages. This creates a dangerous situation for our young adults, and troopers, deputies and police officers know all too well the possibilities that exist.

Currently, schools across the state are hosting safety demonstrations by MADD, the National Save a Life Tour (a high-impact alcohol awareness program) and law enforcement, in which mock crashes are utilized as a teaching tool for students to understand the ramifications of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These demonstrations are designed to make students think about the consequences of their actions, and understand that poor choices could cost them or someone else their life. These choices can have lifelong consequences for everyone involved.

Law enforcement officers across the state are aware of prom and graduation dates. They are often advised by concerned citizens of illegal parties, and schedule extra enforcement when the parties are occurring. There have been occasions where parents or friends host parties, thinking they will provide a safe environment for teens to party and drink alcohol. These are defined as "social hosting" under KSA 21-3610c, and are illegal. Violation of this law is a Class A misdemeanor, with a minimum fine of $1,000.

Students, we encourage you to make responsible choices. Attend your school-sponsored after-prom parties; resist peer pressure to consume alcohol or drugs. Think about your future. If you are convicted for DUI or drug violations, they are a part of your permanent record and could automatically disqualify you from many professions. Worse yet, you may be involved in a life-altering or life-ending tragedy that will forever impact your memories of this very special time.

Parents, monitor your child's activities. Ask the school to implement a notification policy if students leave prom or the after-prom party early. Check on your child occasionally. If they say they are going somewhere, check to see if they are actually there (they may not like it now, but they will thank you later in life, and remember that lesson when they become parents). Don't become an enabler by hosting drinking parties. Not only are they illegal, but you are liable if someone gets injured or suffers alcohol poisoning.

The Kansas Highway Patrol encourages everyone to celebrate in a safe and legal manner. Please buckle your safety belts, and avoid distractions in your vehicle that prevent you from giving your full attention to driving. Never drink and drive. This season is a time of life-changing moments. Make good memories, not bad ones that will affect you and your families for the rest of your lives.

COL. TERRY MAPLE,

Topeka

Maple is superintendent of the Kansas Highway Patrol.