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Local Coalition Tackles Underage Drinking

MARION, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- Governor Terry Branstad recently signed a state-wide social host law. The law prohibits property owners from providing alcohol to minors. It's one of the latest efforts to cut down on underage drinking in Iowa.

When you're a mother of 8 kids like Laurice Jessop, including 14 year old triplets, there's never a dull moment.

So the thought of losing any one of them to drunk driving is unimaginable - but it almost happened.

"My daughter's best friend was killed in an alcohol related accident," she says.

Jessop says if it wasn't for a chance out of state trip with her daughter...

"She would have been right in that car with them."

The RC-Rail coalition says that's the toll underage drinking is taking. The coalition was created to combat drinking in rural Linn County. They helped push across a social host ordinance for Linn county 5 years ago.

Even with the work they've done, they say there's still a long way to go. According to their statistics, 85 percent of 11th graders say it's either easy or very easy to get alcohol in Linn County. In turn, usage numbers are creeping up. Other trends:

*    45% of 11th graders report having had one full drink of alcohol
*    25% of 11th graders reports having had their first drink at age 15-16
*    11th graders report getting alcohol through these sources
o    At a party (24%)
o    Someone older buying it for them (17%)
o    From parents (10%)
o    Taking from a home without permission (10%)
*    23% of 11th graders that drank, report drinking liquor
*    14% of 11th graders that drank, report drinking beer

"I think the biggest problem is the acceptability," says Ruth Lane, president of the RC RAIL coalition. "The 'Oh, we did it when we were kids.'"

With more research available now on the effects of alcohol, times have changed. It's why RC -RAIL is really pushing Linn county's social host law.

"A lot of people aren't aware of the social host law," Lane says.

With graduation parties looming, they say now is a good time to refresh everyone's memory. Education is needed, but Jessop says it goes beyond that. She says parenting has changed.

"Very, very soft," Jessop says. "We want to be their friends."

So for her, especially considering how close she came to tragedy, it comes down to being one tough mama.

"I want my kids to know who the boss is," she says. "I would rather be that parent that's strict than have that kid that's out of control."

The state is still allowing local governments to enforce stricter penalties under their own ordinances -- if they had one previously. For example, the state's penalty for a first offense is $200. In Linn County, the first offense is comes in at $750.
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