Wednesday, July 25, 2007

 

Jury finds couple responsible for fatal teen drinking party

I once read about a British plan to increase safety on their rail system by putting up more sophisticated barriers at train crossings. To pay for the barriers they raised the price of tickets. Some economist(s) figured out that the higher price would cause more people to drive and that, in the final analysis, the plan would cause more people to die because driving is more dangerous than taking a train. The British gov't paid millions to kill people.

The absurdity of that outcome is the same way I felt when I read about the Hutsells of Deerfield. A couple who allowed their adult, but under the drinking aged children to drink in the basement of their home with some friends.

Lake County's most notorious party hosts have been found guilty of violating the state Liquor Control Act, nine months after two teenage boys died in a car accident at the end of their driveway during a drinking party in their home.

Jeffrey Hutsell, 53, and Sara Hutsell, 52, were found guilty Saturday of three of the four charges related to the drinking party their son held in the basement of their Deerfield home last Oct. 13.

So they want to prevent young adults from drinking because they want to keep them safe. But when the law just drives the drinking underground, literally in this case, you force them into their cars and that is decidedly not safe. My parents always had a pretty good idea where I was when I was a young man. I was in John O's basement. It was a safe, if hot, place to drink beer. My parents allowed me to drink a glass of wine with dinner when I was 18 and I avoided a lot of the problems that I saw in college when many young adults start drinking but have no idea of their tolerance levels. Their first experience drinking alcohol is driving someplace far from prying eyes and drinking to excess then driving some more.

The 21 year old drinking age limit is well intentioned but faulty way to keep young adults safe. Safe use of alcohol comes from learning about its effects from adults who can supervise youth and prevent them from doing something stupid. This conviction will push parents away from their role as teacher about alcohol into the role of law enforcement. The Hutsells claim no knowledge of the alcohol at the party. I wish they had known or, at least, did not need to pretend not to because, as this conviction makes abundantly clear, parents who try protect their kids by letting them drink at home risk their freedom to a prohibitionist nanny state run amock. The message to parents is stick your heads in the sand further because if we find out you knew we will lock you up.

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