Drinking and driving is a recipe for danger. Parents know this all too well, but their children most probably do not. Once these teens get past the excitement of passing their DMV driving test and receiving their driver’s license, they’ll want to drive around and show off to their friends. It’s a typical scenario across the United States.
While there is nothing wrong with parents getting excited about seeing their children finally driving, they also need to sit down with their teens and talk about what it means to be responsible adults.
There are issues young drivers should know before they go out into the streets. Drunk driving is not only one of the concerns; it’s also the most important.
The legal age for drinking in the U.S. is 21, but this has not stopped teenagers from going to bars and consuming alcoholic drinks. Underage drinking is prevalent throughout the country. Statistics collected in 2018 revealed that around 7.1 million people aged 12 to 20 drank more than a few sips of alcohol a month before the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration conducted its survey. This figure is a reminder for parents to educate their children about the implications of drinking and driving.
If you’re a parent whose teenager is about to get his or her driver’s license, talk to your child about how to be a responsible driver. In simple terms, discuss what can happen if he or she is caught driving under the influence and that there are penalties for underage DUI. It’s not easy, but knowing what to say helps make the task easier.
1. Even a little drinking is bad
Talk to your young driver about alcohol and drinking. Teenage drivers, especially the first-timers, often use the excuse, “I don’t drink a lot. Just a little.” They don’t know that even if they drink only a small amount of alcohol, their reasoning and judgment will still be affected.
The standard BAC or blood alcohol concentration limit is .08%. For drivers under 21 years old, states assign a lower limit, with some even going as low as .03%. Thus, if your son or daughter is suspected of driving under the influence and registers a .03% BAC, he or she will be formally charged with DUI. Underage DUI follows strict penalties mandated by law.
So, your young driver needs to know the risks every time he or she drinks (even a little) and drives.
2. Every state has its own DUI laws.
Help your young driver understand what DUI means.
DUI is short for driving under the influence. It is also commonly referred to as drunk driving. A person driving a vehicle and with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit can be charged with a DUI or drunk driving offense.
DUI laws vary from state to state, but they all have zero-tolerance rules for drunk drivers under 21 years old. Authorities strictly follow the blood alcohol concentration limit and use it as the basis for apprehending DUI violators. Even the smallest amount of alcohol in a teenage driver’s blood can send him or her to jail.
3. Penalties for Underage DUI vary from state to state.
Although each state has its own set of penalties for underage DUI violators, some consequences are common. These are:
- Jail time of one day to one year, depending on the gravity of the DUI offense
- Juvenile detention
- Suspension of driver’s license
- Vehicle impoundment
- Community service
- DUI school
The penalties are higher and stricter if the underage driver went over the BAC limit. If the limit is .03% and he or she registered a .04% concentration, authorities write a regular DUI conviction.
Penalties are worse for teenage drivers with multiple DUI offenses and those who caught driving under the influence with a suspended license.
Teenage drunk drivers who cause injuries and deaths face civil and criminal penalties. In these cases, the DUI misdemeanor becomes a felony DUI charge.
4. Show your young driver significant underage DUI statistics.
Not every underage DUI case comes out in the news; that’s a reality, and one of the reasons why teenage drivers (and some parents) are often indifferent about the issue. However, authorities, lawyers, and the courts know the story better.
Over the years, underage DUI statistics showed glaring figures, proof that people under 21 years old comfortably choose alcohol over other vices. Here are some critical underage DUI statistics you and your teenager should discuss.
- The National Survey on Drug Use and Health’s survey conducted in 2016 among individuals between 12 and 20 years revealed that 7.3 million teens – or 1 in 5 teenagers – admitted to having consumed or drunk alcohol.
- The CDC or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gathered significant statistics:
- Approximately eight teenagers die due to DUI-related car accidents every day.
- In the United States, car crashes are the number one killer of teens.
- More underage drivers are likely to die in a vehicular crash than older drivers.
Knowing these facts help make your teen driver well-informed and less at risk for DUI-related accidents.
5. Your teen driver’s underage DUI conviction reflects on his/her record.
If your teenager has plans of applying for scholarships, an underage DUI conviction reduces his or her chances of a successful application.
Colleges, universities, and school boards often have acceptance policies for applicants with a criminal conviction record.
Your son or daughter faces the same situation if he or she applies for a job. Companies do background checks on all their applicants. With a criminal conviction, your young driver will lose the chance of getting hired.
However, there is an option for underage DUI conviction expungement, although not all states allow it. If your state does, get all the information and requirements you need and talk to your DUI lawyer.
6. Know the signs that signify your underage driver is drinking.
Some signs indicate a teenager is drinking or is addicted to alcohol. Here are some of those signs:
- Irritable, moody, and defensive when confronted about drinking or alcohol
- A change in conduct; rebels against parents or any authority
- Poor school performance resulting from a decline in grades, tardiness, unexplained absences, detentions, and suspensions
- Dresses sloppily abandons hobbies or sports, often lethargic
- Slurred speech, bloodshot eyes
- The sudden appearance of injuries and wounds
- Hides alcohol in a bag, room, and anywhere else
- Strong alcoholic odor on him/her
- Sudden change in the set of friends
- Locks himself or herself inside the room and often goes out without asking permission
- Find time to get help from a professional, like a counselor or medical specialist.
Opening up and talking to your teen driver is vital if you want to keep him or her safe from the lure of alcohol and driving under the influence. If you need professional advice, talk to your DUI lawyer; find a well-trained and highly experienced one.
Victoria Brown currently works as the Marketing and Communications Specialist. Her experiences with DUI cases in the past have inspired her to spread awareness about DUI laws in the United States.
This is a guest post by Victoria Brown. This post has been edited for syntax and grammar. The Law offices of Jay Leiderman is not responsible for the accuracy of the content herein or any opinions or ideas expressed herein. This post is for entertainment and literary value and is not intended as legal advice. This post does not establish an attorney-client relationship of any sort. If you have legal questions about ideas presented herein please contact a lawyer knowledgeable in this field of practice.