Alcohol Prevention

The average age for first time use of alcohol is 13 years old. Start talking before they start drinking.

Because so many kids start experimenting with alcohol early, it is important that parents don’t wait until their children are teenagers before they start talking to them about underage drinking.

Cafe’ Conversations

Cafe’ Conversations are designed for fifth through eighth grade students and their parents to have dinner together and participate in fun, interactive activities that promote discussions about underage drinking. Parents and children also are separated for a portion of the evening to allow candid discussions with parents about underage drinking and2 for the kids to learn about alcohol and its effects on the brain.Cafe’ Conversations have been held at five middle schools and one elementary school. The faith community has also begun hosting the event.


The dangers of alcohol are greater for teens than for adults. Alcoholism in teens can develop in a year or two while the process may take five to 10 years to develop in an adult. The earlier a youth starts drinking, the greater the risk. Research has shown that youths who drink before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21. For each year’s delay in starting to drink, the likelihood of later alcohol abuse problems decreases markedly.

Featured drug-impaired driving prevention panelists at the SAFE 2020 virtual annual meeting

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Heavy drinking during the adolescent years can cause damage to thinking abilities, particularly information recall, a critical function in the educational process.


Teen alcohol use also presents additional risks:

  • alcohol-related car crashes; other injuries such as from falls and drowning
  • poor judgment regarding sexual decisions, leading to increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancy
  • increased risk of sexual assault
  • violent behavior
  • legal penalties

SAFE’s Underage Drinking Initiatives

  • In fifth grade, child safety officers from the Chesterfield Police Department teach alcohol prevention lessons to children. SAFE provides Use, You Lose sports bags for the children and a brochure for their parents.
  • SAFE’s compliance check initiative has reduced sales to minors at stores that sell alcohol by 90 percent. It has
    recently expanded its compliance checks to restaurants and bars that sell alcohol.6
  • SAFE sponsors Café Conversations at various middle schools and communities of faith to engage parents and their children in fun, interactive activities that promote conversations about underage drinking.
  • In May of each year, SAFE provides information to parents about safe and sober graduations in a communication from the school superintendent, chief of police and chairman of the SAFE board, along with information about VA Alcohol Laws and how to talk to your child about drinking in college.

Reducing Access

SAFE conducts ongoing compliance checks at alcohol retail outlets in Chesterfield County to encourage compliance with laws related to the sale of alcohol to minors. At the end of each series of checks, SAFE publishes the names of the complying and non-complying stores in community papers. Complying stores receive a letter of thanks from 5SAFE along with posters for their stores. Non-complying stores are encouraged to offer training to their staff to prevent future violations.

Community Standards

The behavior adults model about alcohol, as well as their attitudes toward underage drinking, have a profound effect on the behaviors of teens. SAFE has developed a common-sense list of  Community Standards for Alcohol Use by Adults.

To check out your own drinking patterns, visit Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health.

Media Campaigns

Mass Media Campaigns were used to raise awareness of increased DUI sobriety checkpoint traffic stops and saturation patrol enforcement of both CCPD and VSP and associated penalties, increase the perception of risk for DUI citation, and address community norms in some subgroups within the Latino population. To implement the “Drinks Cost More Than You Think” media campaign, the coalition worked with its Mass Media Campaign Workgroup partners, which included young adults 18-24 years old, Virginia Broadcast Solutions (VBS), NBC 12, Fox Richmond, a young advertising graphic designer from the Martin Agency, local radio and Chesterfield County Public Affairs.

SAFE vetted the media messages by seeking 18-24 year old input on the effectiveness of the media messages as well as asking them to identify or confirm proper placement outlets for maximum impact. A subset of the messages.


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Be sure to follow the #HoldTheKeys campaign on social media, too!

SAFE is proud to announce the 3rd cycle of our drinking and driving prevention campaign. In partnership with DMV and the National Highway Safety Office, SAFE will begin airing the ‪#‎HoldTheKeys‬ commercial December 21, 2015  throughout September 2016! This is going to be a social media driven campaign so we will need your help on getting the message out there! Please use #HoldTheKeys when posting about this commercial or even if you are out with friends and want to promote safe drinking habits. We have a page on our website that is solely dedicated to the most creative posts and videos regarding the #HoldTheKeys campaign. Thank you to all of our partners and volunteers who made this possible!

Behind the Scenes of #HoldTheKeys

New Media Campaign!

SAFE recently received a new grant from the Virginia Highway Safety Office to reduce alcohol related crashes among 18-24 year olds in Chesterfield County. According to the DMV, Virginia’s Highway Safety Office, there were 323 alcohol-related crashes involving 18-24 year old drivers in Chesterfield County frodmvLogom 2012 to 2014. Substance Abuse Free Environment Inc. (SAFE), a community coalition serving Chesterfield County, was awarded a highway safety grant through Virginia’s Highway Safety Office for the fiscal year 2016. The grant will support efforts to reduce alcohol-related crashes in Chesterfield County. One strategy that will be implemented during this grant cycle is a media campaign to reduce these crashes and make Chesterfield County roadways safer for our residents.