Teen drinking is a huge concern for many parents, especially when those same teenagers have the ability to get behind the wheel or are unsupervised after they have consumed alcohol.
The legal drinking age in all fifty states is 21 years of age. In many states, if not all, any amount of alcohol detected on a teenager’s breath is an automatic ticket, for “minor in possession” (MIP), and, like adults who are cited for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of intoxicants, that ticket means that they will lose their license.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the “Zero Tolerance” law took effect in 1997. This law, and many like it, makes it illegal for people under the age of 21 to drive a motor vehicle if any amount of alcohol is detected on their breath. In Texas, drivers ages 17-20 will face DWI penalties if their blood alcohol content is measured at .08 (which is the legal limit for intoxication in most states and the District of Columbia) or higher.
Zero tolerance laws have become common in the United States, but how effective are they really? Teenagers and youths still drink, they just do it a little differently, choosing to drink where they know they will not be caught. Some even drink with parental permission, and sometimes, parental supervision.
In the past few years, parents have been in the news after being charged for allowing their children to consume alcohol, or after hosting parties where their children have been intoxicated. Many parents feel that supervised drinking is the way to introduce their children to alcohol, but the law does not see it that way.
Zero Tolerance laws, which are not limited to alcohol, have recently come under fire for being too strong. According to whatsdrivingyou.org, federal legislation enacted in 1995 that allows for the withholding of highway funds played a role in motivating states to pass such laws. In 1998, South Carolina became the 50th state to adopt a Zero Tolerance policy.
If young people drink, they need to know all of the health and safety risks involved the danger to themselves and to others around them. Parents need to be sure that they tell their children what they need to know about the dangers of alcohol.
No matter how parents feel about their children and alcohol consumption, it is important for teens to know that they can get home safely after a night out with friends, to minimize the risks of injuries or even death from alcohol-related accidents. Young people need to know how alcohol impairs judgment, timing and reasoning, and that’s part of what zero tolerance policies are meant to do.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving