When it comes to putting a lid on teen drunkenness, society is at the end of its rope. It is now deciding (gasp!) to turn to the parents of teens for help.

The new ParentsEmpowered public education campaign hopes to teach parents more about teen drinking and — in turn — encourage them to intervene. The campaign highlights several statistics, including: Some 31 percent of Utah kids who have been drunk over the past year said their parents didn't think they drank at all. Along with that, 23 percent of eighth-graders say they have sampled alcohol and by high school graduation, a full 38 percent say they have tried it.

Now, with spring approaching and thoughts of spring break, graduation parties and spring dances in the air, organizers for intervention are looking to sound the alarm for sleepy parents to show them the dangers and help them communicate with their children. The goal is to help parents set parameters and learn how to monitor the behavior of their children.

In the past, the focus for prevention has been on tobacco and drugs. But Ben Reaves of the state prevention team says that alcohol poses a much bigger threat to the safety and health of young people. With alcohol being more prevalent, it's no wonder many teens have an easier time lifting a bottle from the house or getting misguided adults to purchase it for them.

The public initiative is taking the form of town hall meetings, which will dovetail with a national effort to raise awareness of the problem. Utah parents are often amazed to learn that their own children have been secretly drinking. There is often an optimism about their kids. But, to their credit, parents who have been touched by the new intervention campaign are responding. The first townhall meeting was held in Cedar City on March 10 where 950 people showed up.

Utahns may be a trusting lot, but they are also practical. And once they hear the word about alcohol abuse, they are quick to take action. The statistics are alarming. But now the alarm has sounded. To its credit, state government is now focusing its efforts where they will very likely bear the most fruit — on those who actually have a "dog in the fight": The caring parents of troubled teens.