Our top Chicago auto accident attorneys have some good news to report regarding the incidence of teenage drunk driving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that for teens between the ages of 16 and 19 years old, the percentage who drink and drive has dropped by more than half: since 1991, it has declined by 54 percent.
The CDC believes that this decrease is in large part due to legal changes across the United States. Specifically, many states have now adopted “zero tolerance” laws on teenage drunk driving: laws that make any level of blood alcohol above zero a punishable offence for teens.
Illinois has had a “zero tolerance” law since 1995. Under Illinois drunk driving law, anyone under the legal drinking age (21 years) who has any alcohol, even a trace amount, in their system can have their driver’s license revoked. Teens stopped for other traffic offenses can be asked to take an alcohol test, and if they refuse the test, the penalties are even stiffer. And, importantly, adults who let teens drink at their home can face fines and even jail time.
The CDC also believes that tighter restrictions on teenage licenses have also helped. In Illinois, for example, the number of months a teen must have a “practice” license has been increased. And after getting her license, a teen can only have one other non-relative teen passenger in the car (for one year), and cannot talk on a cellphone at any time.
Finally, the CDC cited the increase of other ways to communicate, such as texting, chatting, and “skyping” (video calling via computer or smartphone) as a factor – as well as the increased cost of gas. Because of these factors, the CDC believes, teens are more likely to “hang out” with friends while staying home, rather than gathering away from home and drinking.
Another notable factor in the decrease is the ever-more-realistic awareness campaigns put on by high schools aiming to stop drunk driving accidents. Schools in the Chicago area stage accidents, zip simulated corpses in body bags, and have victims, parents of victims, and those who have caused fatal drunk driving accidents speak to students. Local high schools also revoke the right to participate in sports and other activities if students receive a DUI.
The report did contain some discouraging news: one in ten teenagers, or 10 percent, still regularly drives drunk. Of that 10 percent, 85 also engage in binge drinking.
Interestingly, the rates of drunk driving in teens also breaks out by gender and race. Female teens are less likely to drive drunk than males. White and African-American teens are also less likely to drive drunk than Hispanic teens. Female African-American teens are the least likely to drive drunk of any teenage demographic group.
While the decrease is encouraging, our auto accident attorneys believe that there is far more work to be done. One in ten teens drinking and driving is still far too high a number. We encourage parents, educators, and legislators to continue the fight against drunk driving, to make the roads safer for teens and others.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago drunk driver injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.