Rocky Mountain Raceway joins effort to steer youth away from alcohol

MAGNA, Utah -- Rocky Mountain Raceway is using its final season to push for teen drinking prevention with a larger than life representation of alcohol’s effect on a teenager's brain.

In its final season, Rocky Mountain Raceway has partnered with Parents Empowered to promote a visual campaign against underage drinking.

“It’s amazing how something so subtle can have such a big impact on us,” said 17-year-old Zachary Christensen, standing in front of a car crashing into a giant brain.

With beer-colored bubbles painted across the hood, the car represents an alcoholic beverage wrecking a teenager’s brain.

“There’s a lot of examples for our teens to start drinking, and there’s not a lot of examples for them to stop drinking,” said Lt. Robert Hamilton with the West Valley City Police Department.

Thousands of patrons will walk into the speedway for the final season and pass traffic-themed reminders on the way to their seats; reminders that drinking is not all fun and games.

“There’s the curiosity factor: it’s what they see on TV, it’s what their peers are doing and what their parents are doing,” Lt. Hamilton said.

The signs put a new twist on your classic roadway signs, to deter from the pressure and allure of underage drinking.

“'Hey, come on, drink this drink,'" said Zachary, mimicking peer pressure. “'Come on, just do it.'”

"Yield: Developing Brains" reads one of the signs lining the walkway.

“It’s fun, it’s great,” Zachary continued.

"Absolutely NO drinking before 21" reads another sign that looks like a posted speed limit.

“'Just do it, you'll feel better about yourself,'” said Zachary, continuing to mimic the peer pressure teens face.

Zachary is a teen advocate against underage drinking, but according to him, it’s a lot easier to coax your peer into drinking than it is to get them to stop.

“When [kid's peers] are explaining it, about drinking, they’re saying it’s fun, entertaining, it’s going to be a great time,” he explained. “Whereas if they’re saying stay away from it, they’re talking about its negative sides, not focusing on the positives.”

But the visuals at RMR aren’t just for teens, they’re for parents too.

“The parent that is too busy or just too tired from work and letting their children do whatever they want to do, that’s when those idle hands, they’re going to start getting into mischief,” Lt. Hamilton said.

In fact, Hamilton said children as young as sixth grade have now started binge drinking.

“By binge drinking, they’re not having the one or two drinks to relax or to socialize,” Hamilton said. “They’re doing it specifically to get to that out of control, that feeling of being drunk… and they don’t know their limitations so they keep drinking to the point where they are sick and possibly deathly ill.”

According to Parents Empowered, the best prevention is just starting the conversation.

“Be blunt, ask them what they know about it,” Lt. Hamilton said.

So one less kid is hurt by a bad decision.

“I’ve had children die in my arms, crying for their mother and then you go and knock on their door at two o’clock in the morning… and just stand there as the family goes into shock and is just screaming and crying, and can’t understand why this is happening to them, they’ll never see their loved one again,” Hamilton said through strong emotion.

“That is one of the hardest things that we have to do,” he added.

The agencies involved hope teens will see the visuals and be reminded of the dangers, while parents will know to start the conversation.