Kids today are more likely than in the past to have their own cars and parentless houses on weekends, said Deputy Ron Austin, whose beat is youth in the San Dieguito area.
The result is often the house party--a large gathering of teen-agers at a house with kegs of beer and no adult supervision. Sometimes the parties are for-profit events organized by students who go so far as to post flyers about them. The admission price is typically $4 to $5. The house party can often be the most popular teen social event on any given weekend.
The parties contribute to a trend Austin has seen develop over the years: an increase in drunk driving by minors.
"There is a lot of denial by parents. In a lot of cases they are just too busy to deal with the kids . . . . Usually they are fairly major parties from 50 to a couple hundred kids. Parents are usually not at home, they're out of town and have left the kids with a housekeeper."
Rich Kelso, adviser to the Associated Student Body at San Dieguito High School, knows about house parties too, but doesn't think it's fair to point the finger at the students. "You point the finger at the parents. They say 'Here's the house, have your big party.' "
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday January 17, 1991 San Diego County Edition North County Focus Page 4 Metro Desk 2 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction
Safe rides--North County Focus incorrectly reported last week that a program to provide rides to intoxicated youths is operated by Students Against Drunk Driving. Although often staffed by students from that group, the service is sponsored by Safe Rides and is operated out of the San Dieguito Boys and Girls Club, Solana Beach branch.
Besides, says Kelso, while the numbers of students at a house party may seem large, it would be unfair to attribute the numbers to any one school since the parties can draw students from all over North County.
And Kyle Yonemura, 17, Associated Student Body vice-president at San Dieguito High School, said that the house party is not nearly as nefarious as it looks.
He attends them occasionally and says that not all students are there to get drunk.
"For a lot of us, it's not really the drinking, it's just a social place," he said.
Not everyone is at the party, though.
Some students have committed themselves to helping the kids who have been drinking get home safely.
Members of the Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) group at San Dieguito High School take turns spending Friday and Saturday nights waiting for drunk students to call for rides. Julie Dietsch, a 17-year-old senior and president of San Dieguito SADD, said the group has 30 members.
A team of three students, supervised by a parent volunteer, is assigned to answer phones. When someone who's had too much to drink calls for a ride, two students--one male and one female--go together in one of their cars to pick up the person who called. The two remain in contact with their base by CB radio. On a typical Friday or Saturday night, said Dietsch, SADD receives two or three calls.
When she attends large parties, Dietsch often hands out cards with the SADD phone number printed on them. Promotional efforts have raised the profile of SADD and increased the number of students willing to call, she said.