Underage Drinking and Driving, Four Words that Should not be Mixed

Teenagers around the state drink and then drive almost every day. As a community, it is crucial that these numbers decrease, as many lives are affected the second a teenager starts consuming alcohol.


Debra Garcia, Features Editor/Business Manager

   Teenagers have been told since kindergarten never to drink and drive. They are taught about the dangers of being intoxicated behind the wheel and how it could affect them for the rest of their lives. Yet, even though it is illegal and dangerous to do so, alcohol-related car accidents involving minors occur almost every day. 

   The question is, why do teenagers, especially high schoolers, think it is a good idea to get intoxicated, then get behind the wheel? If not that, it is getting into a car with a drunk driver. The culprit: peer pressure. If one person starts drinking, others will follow, trying to seem part of the group. They want to seem cool in front of their peers.  After this, mainly due to the consumption of alcohol, judgment will become impaired. A teenager’s mind can not handle all the alcohol, even though they believe they can. This leads them to think that they can drive home.  

   When someone consumes alcohol, their judgment, impulse control, coordination and balance are affected drastically. If that someone is under the drinking age limit, these effects can be magnified to their highest degree. This is because the minds of underage individuals have not fully developed yet, so they are more susceptible to corruption and the effects of drugs and alcohol. When an individual, especially someone underage, is under the influence, they are unable to make smart decisions. This is due to the lack of judgment and impulse control.  

   Impaired judgment leads someone to believe they can do certain tasks, like driving. Once they are behind the wheel, it is easy to see that coordination is long gone. Reaction times can become low, like in an incident that involves stopping and or braking, possibly leading to a car accident. If a large quantity of alcohol is consumed, these effects can lead to loss of consciousness and even blacking out for long periods of time. If this happened while driving, one can lose control of the vehicle, causing a car accident which can result in injury or in some cases, death. 

   It is not hard to forget, it is illegal for individuals under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. Plus, anyone, any age, can face legal charges for being under the influence while behind the wheel. Zero Tolerance Laws prohibit those under the drinking age from driving while intoxicated, and if they are caught drinking and driving, they will be charged with a DUI and have their license taken away. Even the smallest amount of alcohol, ranging from 0.00 to 0.02 percent BAC, can get an individual from the ages of 15-20 charged with a DUI. 

   Heaven forbid that someone underage gets into a car accident where someone is injured. In the state of Florida, if someone is seriously injured in a drunk driving accident, it will be considered a  third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. If the incident results in death, the driver will be charged with a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years behind steel bars. This could ruin a teenager’s life forever. Half their life will be wasted in prison, with the other half being miserable, as it will be harder to establish a career after they are released. Not only that, but someone’s child can be stripped from their lives forever, just because some teenager at a party thought it would be cool to have a few bottles of beer and drive home. 

   According to talkitoutnc.org, teenagers are responsible for 17% of alcohol-related car accidents, this is even though only 10% of drivers are under the age of 21. How crazy is that? It gets better, a study made by CDC in 2012 shows that 1 in 10 high school students drink and drive. Young drivers, between the ages of 16-20, are 17 more times to die in a car crash with a BAC of .08% than drivers 21 and older. In a Youth Risk Behavior Survey covered by the CDC in 2011, teens 16 and older were asked if they ever drank then drove. This was covered state by state. In the state of Florida, 9.2%-11% of students reported that they or their peers have consumed alcohol then drove under the influence, numbers no one should be proud of. 

   Now the new question is, what can the community do to make these numbers decrease, especially in the area? Prom and Graduation season is coming up. This means, whether it is legal or not, many students will be celebrating with some kind of alcohol. Parents need to start educating their teens on the dangers of drinking underage and getting behind the wheel right after. Always lead by example, do not do anything around the teen that they should not do.  They could make plans with their teens in case they do drink. For example, set up a code word to text which means they are in a situation where they need to be driven home. Or have a designated friend who promises not to drink so everyone can make it home safely. 

   It is not just the parents’ responsibility to set plans for these sorts of situations, it is the teenager in question’s responsibility too. Teenagers themselves have to be more responsible around their friends, as it is hard to avoid (coming susceptible) to peer pressure. They need to recognize the severity of drinking underage, and how much it could affect their lives forever.