As times involving holiday parties start to occur—whether of Halloween, end of term, Thanksgiving revels, Christmas, or other holiday parties—it is also time to discuss teenagers and driving while under the influence (DWI) of alcohol.
On the surface, there is some good news. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, since 1991 the percentage of high-school-age students who drink and drive has decreased by half. However, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) estimates that that nearly one-third of people aged 12 to 20 in Minnesota have used alcohol in the past month—188,000 people. Even more significantly, more than 20% of teenage Minnesotans, or 138,000, have conducted binge drinking in the past month. This tracks along with CDC guidance that most teens who drink do so to get drunk—which often involves binge drinking.
This directly affects not only their safety, but the safety of all drivers and pedestrians. The CDC notes that drivers in this age group are three times more likely than drivers of older age groups to be in a fatal vehicle crash. Teenage drivers are 17 times more likely to die in a car crash if they have a blood alcohol count (BAC) of .08, the limit for DWI in Minnesota.
In addition to safety, teenagers who drive while under the influence may be impacting their lives for decades to come. Penalties for a DWI arrest are not only stiff, they will stay on a young person’s record for 10 years—meaning that an arrest down the road will be counted as a repeat offense, with even stiffer fines.