To the editor:

We are nearing the time where many young people will celebrate a lifetime of accomplishments as they graduate from high school and move toward their life goals. Family and friends will gather together for a festive occasion to commemorate this awesome milestone.

Traditionally, this is also a time when alcohol enters into the mix and brings tragic results for all involved. Alcohol is the most commonly used drug among American youth and it kills 5,000 teens every year.

Some consider underage drinking a rite of passage. In Kentucky, we consider it against the law. Last year 4,014 teenagers under the age of 20 were arrested for driving under the influence and 22 of those were under the age of 14.

$750 million. That’s a lot of money. It’s the amount that was offered to purchase the Facebook internet domain. It is the amount of funding NASA requested to send a solar probe to the sun. It is the gross domestic product of Turkey.

It is also how much underage drinking costs Kentucky taxpayers every year.

With the continued emphasis on our state budget to conserve every dollar, it is more important than ever to reduce the financial burden that underage drinking places on our stretched-thin state.

As a trooper, I have seen first-hand the consequences that result from youth alcohol related incidents, including driving under the influence, underage drinking parties and alcohol poisoning. Any law enforcement officer will tell you that notifying a parent that their child has been killed in a senseless accident is one of the hardest things we must do.

As a father, I implore parents to talk to their children about the dangers of underage drinking. Sixty-five percent of kids who drink alcohol say they get it from their own home. As parents, we are the greatest influence in our children’s lives. The more you connect with them, the less likely they will be to give in to peer pressure.

It is my sincere hope that we all will celebrate the achievements of our Kentucky youth during graduation 2010. Please join with me in making every effort to let our children know the dangers of underage drinking and where we stand on this important issue.

Lt. David P. Jude

Kentucky State Police Headquarters

Frankfort, Ky.

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