Safety Spotlight: Underage Drinking and Alcohol Abuse

By Stephen G. Shelow
Director, University Police

College is a time for many students to be on their own for the first time, have fun and make their own decisions. Too often though, when it comes to having fun, some students can fail to realize that a measure of responsibility is much needed to stay safe and free of trouble. In the past year, more than 850 underage drinking citations and arrests and 200 public drunkenness citations and arrests have been issued by Penn State University Police.

It is important to remember that the legal drinking age in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States is 21. Like everywhere else, this law is enforced by University and State College Police.

Additionally, anyone consuming alcohol should be mindful of how much they are consuming. Not only can severe intoxication lead to costly legal trouble, it can cause serious medical problems such as alcohol poisoning, or accidental injury due to impairment.

For those age 21 and over, knowing your limit, drinking responsibly and having a designated driver are important keys to remember when consuming alcohol. These steps can help prevent harm to yourself and others.

For those under the age of 21, remember that there are consequences to breaking the law, ranging from costly fines to the suspension of driving privileges. Additionally, underage drinking is recognized as a significant public health issue in the United States, and statistics show that violent crimes on college campuses are quite often alcohol-related.

The most important lesson to be learned is personal responsibility. Consider what you are doing, and the consequences you could face.

This is a critical safety issue. During the first 10 days of the semester Penn State police investigated a dozen cases where students and visitors have been taken to the emergency room suffering from alcohol overdoses.

Steve Shelow, a law enforcement veteran of nearly 20 years, is director of Penn State University Police and an expert on campus safety. He can be contacted by e-mailing Shelow@police.psu.edu or calling (814) 863-1892.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010