Kanawha Sheriff launches 6th Operation Graduation Prom Alive

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Apr 15, 2011 in Car Accidents

The school year really has flown by. Prom season opened in Charleston last night with a big do at the Civic Center. Soon, high school seniors will be picking up their diplomas and heading off to celebrate with their friends. What parents and law enforcement authorities know that kids don't always remember is that these teens aren't invincible. One beer, slower reflexes, a red light ignored and a fatal crash -- a story all too familiar throughout the state this time of year.

The Kanawha County Sheriff's Department wants to keep teens safe during prom and graduation season, so they've launched the sixth annual Operation Graduation Prom Alive.

Don't be surprised if you see either sheriff's deputies, state troopers or city police stationed outside the doors of the Civic Center or the downtown hotel, or if you see more patrols than usual out on the roads. They'll be making sure that kids who shouldn't be driving don't get behind the wheel.

Law enforcement officers won't be standing in the shadows, either. The best way to enforce a zero-tolerance program is to maintain high visibility and to be aggressive about enforcement. The officers are particularly focused on curbing drunk driving and the illegal use of alcohol, drugs or prescription medication. The legal drinking age is 21 in West Virginia, but authorities and emergency room personnel say that kids can find ways around it.

The number of officers assigned to a prom or graduation depends on the location of the event and the school. Officers will be outside of the venue for at least an hour beforehand to remind everyone attending to be responsible. Funding from the Governor's Highway Safety Program has made it possible this year for officers to run DUI checkpoints, as well.

Police said they would also be conducting beer stings this season. In a beer sting, police send teens into establishments that sell liquor, where the teens "shoulder tap" adults to buy alcohol for them. Stores that allow this to happen receive citations for each violation.

The focus of the operation isn't on busting as many kids or as many stores as possible. more teens die or are injured between prom and graduation season and the end of summer than at any other time of the year. The focus of Operation Graduation Prom Alive is on keeping kids from harm -- from hurting themselves, their friends or even total strangers who are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Source: The Charleston Gazette, "Sheriff's department working to make proms, graduation safe for students," Kathryn Gregory, 04/14/11

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