New York law prohibits alcohol consumption by those under the age of 21, but underage drinking remains a persistent problem in the Empire State. Research indicates that about 70 percent of American teenagers admit to drinking, and a driver under the age of 20 loses their life in a drunk driving accident every 15 minutes in the United States. Zero tolerance laws for underage drunk drivers have had some success, but alcohol consumption is still associated with about 60 percent of all teen car accident fatalities.
The challenge facing legislators and road safety advocates is the often fatal combination of peer pressure, inexperience behind the wheel and the inherent recklessness of youth. Public awareness campaigns have little effect on those who feel that they will live forever, and penalties are rarely a deterrent for those who believe that they will never be caught. Underage drinking and driving is made even more dangerous by the low tolerance for alcohol that many teens have.
Not all of the news about teen drinking and driving is bad. The graduated driver’s license programs that have now been introduced in all states have helped to reduce teen drunk driving by more than half since 1991, and the impact that a DWI charge can have on a young person’s career or college prospects is also an effective deterrent.
Parents who allow teenage children to drive their vehicles could face civil sanctions under New York’s vicarious liability laws. Personal injury attorneys pursuing civil remedies on behalf of drunk driving accident victims may initiate litigation against parents in situations where teens were not properly supervised or drinking was condoned.
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