April is Alcohol Awareness month and the theme this year is “Changing Attitudes: It’s not a ‘rite of passage’,” to raise public awareness about underage drinking and drinking and driving in particular.

This year’s proclamation by Acting Minister of Social Development and Sports, Lovitta Foggo, cited a list of sobering facts on misuse and abuse of alcohol, and the impact it has when it comes to road traffic accidents on our roads.

The proclamation also carried a reminder that “alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in Bermuda”.

Topping the list: “Excessive drinking is responsible for an average of nine (9) deaths a year on Bermuda’s roads.” In fact, statistics show that 75 percent of all road traffic fatalities involve alcohol.

The proclamation also states: “Since 1997 there have been over 236 road fatalities, and 170 related to alcohol misuse.”

On the issue of underage drinking, it was also noted that “a supportive family environment is associated with lowered rates of alcohol use for adolescents”.

“The National School Survey 2015 reports, 19.2 percent of youth said they were a passenger on a bike or in a car driven by someone who had been drinking.

“Consistent and sustained parental attitudes can influence a child’s decision about whether or not to use alcohol and drugs,” said Ms Foggo.

She also noted that children “who have conversations with their parents/guardians and learn a lot about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50 percent less likely to use alcohol and drugs than those who don’t have such conversations”.

“We often view underage drinking as a ‘rite of passage’ and we sit back and hope that young people will ‘get through it’. An alternate way would be to change our attitude and take an active role in learning about alcohol and drugs and help young people do the same,” said Ms Foggo.

She also reaffirmed the Government’s commitment “to taking a role in preventing underage drinking and promoting responsible drinking practices”.

“It is our responsibility as a community to tackle this important issue, so that we ca avoid more young lives being affected by alcoholism, more antisocial behaviour, inadequate school performances, and more road fatalities,” she said.

“The Department of National Drug Control and CADA are on the front-line of our prevention efforts and through their work and the community’s support, we will make a much needed impact.”