Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol is a very serious traffic violation These charges can have long-lasting effects on drivers who are convicted. Here at The Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden, our Tacoma, Washington, DUI attorneys often see DUI charges involving drivers who are under the age of 21. With these charges being so serious, we want to take a moment to look at some important statistics behind underage drunk driving, along with some tips about what to do if you (or your son or daughter) is pulled over under the suspicion of a DUI.
The Facts Behind Underage DUIs
Drunk driving laws and subsequent penalties for a DUI conviction are strict because these crashes can have drastic consequences—and also because Americans drive under the influence more often than most people realize.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA);
- 63% of Americans will be involved in a drunk driving accident at some point in their lives, even if this accident is caused by another driver or vehicle.
- More than 29 million people have admitted to driving under the influence at least once in the past year.
- Nearly one-third (29%) of convicted drunk drivers have already been convicted of a DUI prior.
- The average person convicted of drunk driving is a first-time offender—but he or she drives under the influence around 80 times—on average—before being caught.
Underage drunk driving is even more serious because drivers are technically breaking two laws: first, consuming alcohol under the age of 21, and second, driving while intoxicated. In the state of Washington, it is also common for underage drivers to be pulled over for driving under the influence of illegal drugs. According to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board;
- Compared to drivers over the age of 21, drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 are twice as likely to die in a car accident when they drive while intoxicated.
- Teenagers who begin drinking alcohol around age 15 are four times as likely to develop an alcohol dependence, compared to individuals who wait until turning 21 to begin drinking alcohol.
- According to 2007 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), underage drunk driving in the state of Washington cost residents $1.4 billion in that one year alone.
So what’s the next step?
It is important for parents to be the first line of defense in these situations. It is important to talk to your son or daughter about the dangers of drunk driving and the appropriate steps to take following a drunk driving accident.
As with all DUI cases, it is important for teens to remember these points if they are pulled over for drunk driving:
- Respecting the law and respecting law enforcement officials is essential. Although drivers are not legally required to implicate themselves when a police officer asks whether they’ve been drinking alcohol, drivers always need to show respect and save any arguments for later.
- Implied consent laws mean that drivers are required to complete a drug or alcohol test if they are pulled over under the suspicion of DUI (and if the police officer requests it). Drivers can choose which type of chemical test they prefer, but the consequences of refusing to perform a test will be much more severe.
- Never assume that driving after drinking alcohol will be okay, even if you’re going somewhere “just down the road” or if you’ve “only had a couple drinks and don’t feel drunk.” It is always better for teens—and adults—to call a trustworthy friend or relative to pick them up. It is important to emphasize this when talking with your children.
It is crucial for parents and teens to understand that mistakes happen and that the consequences don’t have to last forever. At The Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden, our team of compassionate and experienced DUI attorneys understand this. We’re committed to making the roads of Washington as safe as possible. Contact us today if you or your child has been pulled over for a DUI offense. We want to help.