Summer is here and Jefferson County residents are preparing to enjoy our beautiful waterways. We can enjoy Cherokee or Douglas Lake, along with several rivers and ponds. As many agencies are gearing up to accommodate exciting events on land and water this summer, ensuring safety for all participates is paramount. One area that Jefferson County’s Substance Abuse Coalition, Rescue 180, is concerned about is the observation and the enforcement of the ’social host law’ that pertains to underage
drinking facilitation, whether on the land or water. The coalition has been working with several agencies to post and explain underage drinking and social hosting laws in our community.
“ As always, we are working to stop underage drinking and social hosting throughout our county on the land. At this time, we are preparing a special awareness campaign, along with local law-enforcement and the T.W.R.A., to inform and warn our community of the negative consequences of drinking and facilitating alcohol irresponsibly on the water,” states Rev. Debra Shultz, Executive Director of Rescue 180.
Rescue 180 and other area coalitions have been involved in a media campaign that explains the perils of underage drinking and social hosting. “The new ‘Social Hosting Law’ went into effect July of 2009,” explains Shultz. “TCA 39-15-404 is a law that prohibits anyone from distributing or facilitating alcohol, whether on land or water, to any underage person. The law states that violators will be subject to imprisonment up to 11 months and 29 days, a fine up to 2,500 dollars, at least
100 hours of community service and the possibility of losing their drivers license for a year.”
Shultz says the coalition plans to post warning signs throughout the community, as well as near water access areas, that social hosting is against the law. She says their regional team of coalitions is preparing to post several ads in local publications, and are currently running public service announcements on WBIR TV in Knoxville about underage drinking and social hosting.
“As always, we are about prevention and are fighting Substance Abuse of all forms in our county. We have established several prevention programs for our community, such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) chapters.
Matt Majors, Boating Investigator for Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency states, “Although our primary job is to enforce hunting and fishing laws, our officers are always prepared to stop any operator of a water vessel who we feel are acting irresponsibly and are a danger to themselves or others.” This includes boating under the influence and distributing alcohol to minors. “We are prepared to give any such suspicious person a sobriety test on the water just like a police officer does on the land,”
says Majors. “Our goal is to insure a safe and enjoyable recreational time on our waterways. We are here to assist, protect and serve.”