No parent wants to hear the dreaded news that their child has been in a car accident – or, even worse, that they were drinking behind the wheel. Yet it happens far more often than you’d think.
Teen drivers already face an alarmingly higher risk of crashing. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, they’re three times more likely to get into accidents than older drivers. Add drinking into the equation, and you have a recipe for tragedy.
The legal consequences of underage DUI
In New Jersey, it’s illegal for drivers under age 21 to get behind the wheel with any measurable amount of alcohol in their systems. When teens get caught with a blood alcohol concentration between .01 and .08 percent, the consequences can include:
- License suspension for up to 90 days
- Community service
- A mandatory alcohol education program
- Up to $500 in fines
Those with a blood alcohol level above .08 percent will face full-fledged DUI charges, which may also mean:
- Potential jail time
- A lengthier license suspension
- Possible installation of an ignition interlock device
In either case, a conviction carries serious legal consequences.
Heightened risk of accidents
Beyond just the legal ramifications, underage drinking while driving can quickly derail promising young lives. Driving with any amount of alcohol in their system raises the risk of an accident much higher among teen drivers than adults. Teens who drink are more likely to speed and take risks. They’re also more susceptible to distractions, more prone to overestimate their abilities and less likely to wear seatbelts.
Even one or two drinks can result in decreased reaction time and impaired judgment. It’s no surprise, then, that drunk driving is a factor in roughly 22 percent of fatal accidents among underage drivers.
Additional consequences that can last a lifetime
The psychological trauma of being involved an alcohol-related accident can leave lasting scars – especially if it resulted in injury or death.
What’s more, a conviction for underage DUI can haunt teens for years to come. They’ll have to disclose it on applications for college admission, housing, financial aid, jobs and the like.
Teen drivers face enough challenges when it comes to staying safe on the roads. Steering clear of alcohol is one of the simplest and most effective means of reducing the risk of an accident.