The governor's office wants to put an end to underage drinking.
During the holiday season, Gov. Janet Napolitano is emphasizing Arizona's underage drinking problem.
"We are aware of the problem here in Payson and Gila County, and will definitely be conducting a higher saturation of DUI patrols during the holidays," she said.
The Gila County Sheriff's Office and the Arizona Highway Patrol also said they will conduct increased DUI enforcement over the holiday season.
Penalties for DUI in Arizona range from $250 and 10 days in jail for a first offense, to a $150,000 fine, a three-year revocation of driving privileges, up to five years probation, possible treatment counseling and vehicle forfeiture for the most extreme DUI offense.
Minors convicted of underage consumption in Arizona could face probation, a juvenile court hearing, driving privileges suspended for 180 days, attendance at a counseling or education program, a fine of up to $500 and community service work.
The effort this holiday season is part of the governor's Draw the Line campaign.
In Gila County, nearly 64 percent of eighth-graders admitted to having used alcohol, the governor's office said.
"Whether it's holiday time or any other time, underage drinking is not a rite of passage. It's harmful for kids," Napolitano said.
More than 78 percent of high school seniors in Gila County reported having used alcohol at some time, and more than 20 percent admitted to being under the influence of alcohol at school, said the office of the governor.
Of Arizona's 15 counties, Gila County ranked number eight in usage among high school seniors, according to the 2006 Arizona Youth Survey performed by the Arizona Department of Education.
"We must pay attention to the research that tells us children's brains are still developing through their teens and early 20s. Alcohol does harm their cognitive potential," said Napolitano.
Payson Police Chief Don Engler said underage drinking is a concern in northern Arizona.
Help to keep kids away from alcohol
The Arizona governor's office offers the following tips to keep kids away from alcohol:
Be clear with your children about where you stand on alcohol use. Talk it over before any event or party. Offer sound facts and solid examples of the damage alcohol can do.
Set consequences for breaking family rules about drinking. Remind older siblings that they also are role models to little brothers and sisters. All have a responsibility to prevent underage drinking.
Provide fun, alternative, nonalcoholic drinks and keep them separate from beer and wine, so you can distinguish what kids are pouring by where they are in the room. Don't keep soda cans in an ice chest with beer.
Don't serve children who are underage, and recognize that the law prohibits serving alcohol in your home to nonfamily guests whom you know or should know are under age 21.
Be present throughout any party and circulate among younger guests. Don't be pressured into staying out of sight or allowing younger guests to separate from the party.
Offer activities at events besides drinking and dining to help nondrinkers and children feel included in the celebration.
Don't over-consume yourself. Remember that children mimic the behavior of adults around them. If it's OK for adults to be drunk, teens are likely to argue that they should have that right too -- now or when they reach the same age.
If during a party, a minor appears to have consumed too much, let his or her parent know. Don't assume that this individual and his or her parent have safe transportation home. Give them a ride.
Quick facts about underage drinking in Arizona
- 24 percent of 8th graders, 39 percent of 10th graders and 47 percent of 12th graders reported drinking within the 30 days prior to survey. (Arizona Youth Survey, 2006)
- More than 50 percent of 8th graders statewide say they have already used alcohol. (Arizona Youth Survey, 2006)
- 88 percent of Arizona adults are concerned about underage drinking. (Underage Drinking in Arizona Data Findings & Analysis, 2007)
- Among high school students, most indicate that their parents do not speak to them about alcohol -- with half of those saying it is because their parents trust them not to drink. (Governor's Youth Commission Lead Our World Surveys 2006)