Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is one of the common causes of accidents on most roads in the United States. Thousands of deaths have been recorded due to accidents caused by drunk driving, while many victims have had permanent disabilities. There’s little wonder as to why a considerable number of people support a “zero tolerance” policy on DUI.
DUI is a misdemeanor in most states that can earn the offender up to six months in jail. Individuals injured in a DUI crash can file a claim for compensation for losses.
What is the Zero Tolerance Policy
The purchase and possession of alcohol are illegal in the United States for individuals below the age of 21. The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) that would qualify one as a DUI offender is 0.08. However, the zero-tolerance policy applies to drivers under the age of 21.
The zero-tolerance policy prohibits underage drivers from driving after taking alcohol. So, while an adult would be guilty of DUI if their BAC test is 0.08, an underage driver can be convicted of the same offense if any trace of alcohol is detected. This means that an underaged driver with a BAC of 0.00 – 0.02 will still be guilty of DUI.
While the zero-tolerance policy may seem a little bit extreme, many people have deemed it to be a necessary measure to safeguard lives. Reports have shown that underage drivers are more likely to be involved in a car crash than drivers in other age groups. Therefore, a zero-tolerance policy can help reduce the number of underage drivers going behind the wheel after taking alcohol.
The Rationale for the Zero Tolerance DUI Law
The zero-tolerance policy dates back to 1995, when the National Highway Systems Designation Act was passed. The law required states to charge underage drivers with 0.02 percent BAC or lower with DUI. Failure by any state to adopt the law would mean losing access to funds allocated for highways by the federal government.
With the adoption of this law by states, police officers were relieved of the burden of proving that an underaged driver was intoxicated. All the police officers must do is prove that there are traces of alcohol in their blood for a DUI conviction to stand.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that drunk driving accounts for more than 37 percent of teenage deaths. Notwithstanding the deaths resulting from drunk driving, many underage drivers still take alcohol before getting behind the wheel. According to reports, up to 70 percent of teenagers in the United States drink alcohol and may drive in that state.
Reasons Why Teens Drink
Although alcohol consumption for teens is illegal in the United States, many teenagers still drink alcohol. Teens drink alcohol for several reasons, some of which are:
Peer pressure has been identified as one of the common reasons why teenagers drink alcohol. Some teens take certain risks because they want to have a sense of belonging among their friends.
Most state laws prohibit an underage driver from driving unsupervised with more than one teen passenger. The reason is that teens tend to engage in risky behaviors like speeding and driving impaired when they are with their peers.
Teens that are going through stress are more likely to drink while driving than their counterparts who are not stressed. Also, teens who experience instability at home are likely to start alcohol use much earlier than those from a stable home.
People are generally influenced by what they see on social media. Social media space has a significant effect on the behaviors of teens and young adults. A clinical study has shown that when teens see their friends drinking alcohol on social media, they are likely to replicate that behavior.
Lack of the Right Information
Many teens believe underage drinking is a societal norm because of the information the mass media have exposed them to. Some parents also allow their underage children to drink alcohol without stressing about the consequences of such behavior.
Furthermore, parents who drink while driving are likely to have their teens drink and drive. The reason is that young people naturally imitate the examples set by adults. Although most underaged drivers believe they can handle drinking, the altered state increases the risk of getting involved in a crash.
Although the law puts the legal drinking age at 21, alcohol is readily available to many teens. In most cases, children get alcohol from their parents without them knowing. Reports have also shown that female teens are more likely to have access to alcohol than their male counterparts.
Teens tend to make decisions based on curiosity without considering the consequences of those decisions. This may be attributed to the fact that, unlike adults, their brains are still developing, and they may not comprehend the full impact of their actions.
Teens need a lot of supervision and direction. Without the proper guidance, their curiosity can result in negative behaviors like drinking.
Avoiding DUI Arrests
DUI is a serious offense that can lead to arrest and possible convictions. Here are some of the ways drivers can avoid a DUI arrest:
- Comply with the officer’s request if you are pulled over
- Avoid keeping beer or other contraband in your car
- Get someone else to drive whenever you take alcohol
- Know the legal alcohol limit in the state
“If you are convicted of DUI, you can face fines, jail time, license suspension, and the inability to get insurance for a while,” says William Umansky. “However, you are more likely to face time behind bars with every subsequent offense.”
DUI convictions can have severe consequences, especially for underage drivers. Aside from being fined and possibly serving jail time, one can have their driving license suspended. A DUI conviction can also significantly increase the cost of insurance; therefore, it is best to avoid drinking while driving.