July 4th is a three-day weekend celebration filled with red-white-and-blue festivities with friends and family, but Wichita Mountains Prevention Network says the holiday also has an unfortunate side: Underage drinking and impaired driving.

Gwynn Busby, WMPN regional prevention coordinator director, points to statistics that show that during July 4th weekend, the number of daily emergency department visits for underage alcohol consumption increases by 87 percent nationally.

“The WMPN, a nonprofit serving southern Oklahoma, wants to reiterate that underage drinking is a harmful rite of passage, and impaired driving costs our communities too many lives,” Busby says. “We believe Oklahoma communities have a responsibility to prevent underage drinking, underage alcohol use and impaired driving. A central mission of WMPN, and the seven local county coalitions they serve, is educating community members about Oklahoma’s Social Host Law.”

On July 4th, there is an increased emphasis on get-togethers and parties that may include alcoholic beverages. Responsible Oklahomans should familiarize themselves with Oklahoma’s Social Host Law.

“Most people know it’s illegal to buy alcohol for a minor, but they don’t fully understand the new Oklahoma’s Social Host Law. This law invokes graduated penalties meant to deter and, ultimately, prevent dangerous gatherings from taking place before a child is seriously injured or a death occurs. Also known as ‘Cody’s Law,’ it was named in memory of Cody Ryan Greenhaw, who died in 2004 at age 16 during a gathering in a neighbor’s home where the friend’s parents allegedly knew alcohol and drugs were routinely being used by teens in their home,” Busby explains.

“Oklahoma’s Social Host Law means it’s up to you to make sure children and teens don’t drink in your home or on your property. If children under age 21 are drinking at a gathering, and you provide the location for that gathering, you are responsible. This include if you are an adult or a minor, whether you rent or own.”

Oklahoma’s Social Host Law keeps youths safe and out of trouble. Busby said the law can help prevent potential numerous tragedies, including drunk driving, death or injuries in motor vehicle crashes, accidental injury caused by impairment, physical assault, sexual abuse, unsafe sex, academic problems, health problems, suicide attempts, vandalism, property damage and involvement with the criminal justice system — all what Busby calls “life altering” events.

“During the holiday weekend, we all want to have a good time. We also want to be safe and ensure that this holiday celebration doesn’t end in tragedy,” says Lisa Barnes, WMPN executive director.

To ask questions about WMPN, email gbusby@wmpn.org or call (580) 490-9021, ext. 102.