How Do We Stop Teenage Binge Drinking?
We’ve got an interesting show Wednesday on teenagers who love to party and their parents who don’t seem to know how to get the problem under control. Coincidentally, I’ve been following a lawsuit in Massachusetts filed by one mother, Kathi Meyer, who decided to do something about a group of teenagers who, one night, went out and partied, which she says led to tragic consequences.
Ms. Meyer’s daughter, Taylor Meyer, was a beautiful teenager — an honor student, an athlete, a young woman with a bright future. In October 2008, she was with a group of friends who decided to celebrate after a high school football game in their small Massachusetts town. After going to a couple of house parties, they headed to a wooded area that was popular for teenage drinking. They allegedly began binge drinking, throwing down one drink after another. Taylor, who was said to be drunk, wandered off alone toward a swamp and disappeared. She tripped and fell into the frigid waters. Three days later, after a massive search, her body was recovered.
Earlier this year, Ms. Meyer filed a lawsuit against seven people, five under the age of 18, whom she says are responsible for Taylor’s death. She claims they brought the alcohol and made it available to Taylor on the night that she died. She also accuses those who were in the wooded area of not taking care of Taylor that night. She says at least some of them laughingly pointed Taylor toward the swamp instead of the street as she walked off. Ms. Meyer is accusing the defendants of negligence, wrongful death, conscious infliction of pain and punishment, and willful and reckless acts.
First of all, let me say how much I admire Ms. Meyer for her work at trying to alert kids to the dangers of binge drinking. Since Taylor’s death, Ms. Meyer has gone to schools around the region, talking about how big this problem is. (Surveys show that about 19 percent of young people between 12 and 20 report binge drinking, and 5,000 minors die every year from alcohol-related causes because of underage drinking.)
But what do you think about her lawsuit? Should a kid who’s been binge drinking be blamed for what happens to another kid who’s doing the same thing? Was Taylor forced to be out that night with her friends? Wasn’t it her decision to drink and keep drinking?
Before you make your own call over this issue, however, consider Ms. Meyer’s position. In a recent television interview, she said that the only way beneficial change is going to take place is when kids realize that full accountability will follow their actions. “When I go and speak to kids at schools, they always ask me, ‘What happened to those other kids (who were partying with Taylor)?’ And I have to look at them and tell them they got a $50 fine and eight hours of community service … The people involved in the circumstance of Taylor’s passing definitely did not realize how much they contributed to it, and I don’t feel that those people have learned even as of today.”
You have to admit, it’s an interesting argument. Is the law too easy on underage teenagers who go out drinking? If teenagers knew they could be sued for whatever happened to them or one of their friends on a night of drinking, would they think twice about what they’re doing?
These are hard questions, but this is also a very important issue. Obviously, something needs to be done to keep another Taylor Meyer tragedy from taking place. I’d love to hear your opinions.