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How common is underage drinking among Georgia teens?

Almost a quarter of Georgians between 12 and 20 years old say that they've consumed alcohol within the previous month. That's according to a recently released survey by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.

Aside from it being against the law in most cases, it's also unhealthy. Alcohol consumption by young people whose brains are still developing can cause have long-term developmental consequences. It can also have more immediate consequences. Young people who binge drink are at a higher risk of death by homicide and suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Significant alcohol consumption is a factor in many rapes, as we've seen in some high-profile cases in recent years. Too often, however, attacks in which the victim and/or attacker were under the influence aren't reported to law enforcement.

Of course, getting behind the wheel after drinking can have serious safety and legal ramifications for young people. Drivers under 21 can be arrested for DUI with a blood alcohol content of just .02. As one Atlanta attorney puts it, "Any smell of alcohol on an underage driver behind the wheel, you go to jail. This is true even if the young driver refuses to be tested for impairing substances."

Like most states, Georgia has some exceptions to its underage drinking laws. Minors are allowed to consume alcohol with the consent of their parents, as part of a religious ceremony or if it's in a medication, such as those marketed to relieve cold and flu symptoms.

However, in all of these cases, parents need to supervise their children. They also aren't allowed to provide alcohol to other minors. That means if you're throwing a holiday party to which your teens invite their friends, you can't serve them alcohol.

Even though many parents think that discussing the dangers of alcohol with their kids is pointless, experts say parents have more impact on their kids' behavior than they realize. Before the holiday party season gets into full swing, talk to your kids (again or for the first time) about alcohol. Let them know they can call you if they're in a situation where they don't feel safe or aren't able to drive.

If they do get into trouble with the law, it's essential to take the matter seriously. An underage DUI arrest can have serious consequences for their future.